Soul mates splitting
May 19, 2009 4:17 PM   Subscribe

How to say goodbye to someone you love?

I am coming to the end of a relationship with a woman that I love more than I have ever cared for anyone. She is in a divorce, has two little kids, going to college, has a job, etc... and claims that she can't be in a relationship with me now. She also says that she wants me to go out and have kids, get married, etc... but still says that she cares for me the same way I care for her. Its pretty confusing to me...So she really won't talk to me much anymore, just when she feels like she is losing things. It is hard for me to say goodbye because of my attachment to her, although I am trying...But when it seems like I am moving on she will send messages about still wanting to be together. Well to make a long story short and confusing, she loves me, won't be in a relationship with me, wants me to move on, but keeps contacting me. Whats the best way to handle things? To me, the only option that looks like it is going to work is to end our contact/relationship and move on with our lives. This minimal contact is very stressful, sad, and causing too much anxiety. The only hard part is I really do love her, never felt like this for anyone, ever, don't want to give up, and to have her in my life fully would be amazing...
Any suggestions?
posted by Direwolf to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You have to cut this person off so you can move on.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:21 PM on May 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

She ... claims that she can't be in a relationship with me now. She also says that she wants me to go out and have kids, get married, etc.

You should listen to her on this point, and on this point...

but still says that she cares for me the same way I care for her.

... you should recognize that she's attempting to let you off easy, but isn't doing a very good job of it.

You need to show her and her kids how adults handle things. "Looks like our romantic relationship is over, so let's remain friends, stay in touch, trade Christmas cards, etc. Take care."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:27 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Realize that the only part of saying goodbye that has not already occurred is you finally closing the door all the way.
posted by The World Famous at 4:28 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think it's also worth taking into consideration the circumstances you describe in this comment here.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:28 PM on May 19, 2009 [8 favorites]

My suggestion would be to end all contact with her for a while. If she really cares about you then she will respect this, and give you the space that you need to get some perpective on the situation without pulling you down with her every time she experiences a moment of confusion or weakness.

Perhaps once the two of you have spent a significant amount of time apart, and learned to live on your own, you will rediscover your feelings for each other.. or perhaps you will go your separate ways and eventually be able to have a friendship again. It sounds like both of you need a clean break for a while to get a handle on things though.
posted by adustum at 4:30 PM on May 19, 2009

to have her in my life fully would be amazing...

It would? You sure about that? How would you respond when people ask how you met at a party?
posted by CRM114 at 4:32 PM on May 19, 2009

"Thanks for the memories." Then move on.
posted by trip and a half at 4:44 PM on May 19, 2009

Well to make a long story short and confusing, she loves me, won't be in a relationship with me, wants me to move on, but keeps contacting me. Whats the best way to handle things?

In the short term, I'm afraid you're gonna have to make use of the "ignore call" function of your phone. Things are still too touchy for the two of you to be talking or spending any time together right now. Your tone suggests to me that you're perhaps afraid of never finding another if finally put yourselves out of your miseries and leave this woman. There are a number of ways to discredit this notion: considering gender ratios in the population and basic social probability is my favorite method.

My inner cynic says this gal just kinda wants to have things both ways - she doesn't mind your affection and support, but she doesn't want to put any effort into maintaining it. My inner pragmatist says that, after a lengthy cool-off period, there's potential for a very fulfilling, valuable friendship between the two of you. My inner romantic says ... well, I kind of stopped listening to him, really, cuz he had this bad habit of getting me into situations like the one you've described.

There is no such thing as a "soulmate" - that's high school nonsense, harlequin romance bs. The whole soulmate notion is utterly toxic in my opinion - it's how folks get in these spots where they think they need to be with this one person and none other, lest they forever forfeit their chances at happiness. That simply is not how human relationships function.

Women are absolutely amazing and this world of ours is absolutely packed with them. Once you're free of this no-future relationship, you'll be free to meet as many of them as you please and to get to know the ones you like the best without any guilt whatsoever. Exciting times are ahead of you.
posted by EatTheWeak at 4:58 PM on May 19, 2009 [10 favorites]

It sounds to me as though you are used to being the one who is giving support and she is used to being the one taking or needing the support. That is a very hard habit to break for both of you and it seems as though you are going to have to be the one to do it.

The next time she calls you are going to have to say to her that you would be there always if that was an option, but just being the 'call in' guy when things get too hard is not fair to you. If she cares for you as much as she says she does she will understand. If she respects you she will stop calling until she can offer what you need.

As has already been said above - If you are in love with her even limited contact right now will prevent you from moving on.

Good Luck
posted by Weaslegirl at 5:43 PM on May 19, 2009

Ah come off it, CRM114, he'd tell people how they met, perhaps leaving out some of the details (as everyone does) until that person's tolerance for areas between the black-and-white had been sussed out.

jbarkley0725, sounds like she cares about you but knows in herself that she's never going to give you what you need and deserve. When she's feeling strong she tells you what really needs to be said; when she's feeling weaker or needy for whatever reason she slips back into the old pattern of relying on the good feelings she gets from you, and never mind how it leaves you feeling. Rinse, repeat.

Given that she doesn't really want to be with you romantically - or she *would* be already - I think you need to accept that the only option you have if you want to keep her in your life is to be friends, and ask yourself what needs to be done in order that you can achieve a regular friendship (with no pining, unrequited love etc -- that's not going to be a good friendship for you to be in) with her. I think you'll find you need to take some time away.

You ask how to say goodbye. Your ambivalence about whether to be in touch or not is, I think, the problem here: you could cut the cord if you felt firmly on the subject, but you haven't because you don't. Decide if you want her in your life at all - as a friend, for this is the only option given - and if you do, then make the necessary provisions for that relationship to exist. At this point, I think that means taking a break. I'm talking for possibly a few years, depending on the duration of your relationship. (My experience in a similar situation: it took about as long as the relationship went for to get over it.)

You could also ask her to be firmer herself in her decisions. Doing so might also be helpful to you: you'll know once you've put it to her that "THIS IS IT - NO MORE CONTACT", and she still doesn't run into your arms, that, fer cryin' out loud, she's not serious here: she's willing to let you walk away. You gotta choke that one down at some point; finding a way to make it very clear to yourself may help you move on. But also, really, she needs to back the fuck off if she really wants you to give up on her. She's sending mixed messages. If you can't break off contact right away, start calling her out on it. Whenever she says all those things you want to hear her saying, that she wants to be with you, etc etc etc - call her out on it! No mercy for all these little things you might have overlooked, let her get away with in the past, because of your rose-coloured glasses. Take a step back and ask yourself how someone not in love would view what she's saying. And tell that to her straight. Do something different.

You ARE eventually going to need to take that break, though. The question's really just do you do it sooner or later.
posted by springbound at 6:15 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

How long have you been seeing each other. How long was she with this other guy? How long has her marriage been on the rocks?

These are rhetorical questions I don't really want to know. Sounds to me like she's in grieving for her collapsing marriage, and is going to need to heal. I don't know what the rebound period is likely to be with her, but it could be a long time, like a year or so. You really can help her heal, but probably not in the way you might feel. It calls for a lot of patience and integrity and other things that love brain chemistry generally interfere with. This is a recipe for a long time of confusion and hurt feelings for her, you, the kids, and that other guy.

I always say love is what you choose. If I were you, I'd consider choosing another city to live in.
posted by wobh at 6:16 PM on May 19, 2009

Thanks for all the great feedback, it has been helpful. I think I will have to make that decision to move on for now, and hope for the best in the future. I don't think I can be her "friend" in the traditional way, at least not now. Hopefully it will work out this way after some time, you know, to heal. She really is a great person, no doubts about that. Yes, thanks for the memories, they made my life a better place to be, but Bob Dylan says it well..."keep on keepin' on". She can't be in a relationship now, ok, I understand that and respect her decisions...thats not the hard part...the hard part is believing what she said to even get this far, trusting to put things out there for her, and then experiencing the biggest case of cut-off from anyone I have ever known. Man, life throws curve balls sometimes (well all the time, but not 90mph curve balls). Here and now, good intentions, "wish you...all the best"...thats how I will leave it, and say goodbye. I don't have the "right answer" for this, is there really just one? I have learned though, that if I don't know the answer, being kind will lead me down the right hard as it is sometimes. Thanks again...
posted by Direwolf at 6:44 PM on May 19, 2009

…It is, indeed, almost impossible to find a cure for love. Not only must there be danger, to remind a man forcibly of the need for self-preservation, but, and this is much more difficult to find, it must be a continually pressing danger, yet one which a man can skillfully avoid for long enough to re-acquire the habit of thinking about the need for survival. In my opinion nothing less than a sixteen-day storm as in Don Juan, or M. Cochelet's shipwreck among the Moors will suffice; otherwise you very soon become inured to danger, and in the front line, twenty paces from the enemy, you again begin thinking of your beloved even more devotedly than ever.
-Stendhal, On love [1822], Chapter 39(ii): “Cures for Love”

posted by koeselitz at 7:02 PM on May 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

The gut test works wonders, wake up on a Sunday morning, and ask your gut what you should do, it never lies!
posted by MTheresa at 7:20 PM on May 19, 2009

My initial reaction was that you should dtmfa. It sounds like she's manipulating you, letting you go and then really you back in when she needs an emotional fix.

The conclusion is the same, though, as that given by the other folks here whose response is less harsh than mine: cut off all contact.

I'd add that, for some people, you really only truly get over a relationship when you are in the next relationship. That was certainly always true of me.
posted by alms at 9:03 PM on May 19, 2009

Just remembered that your initial question was "how do I say goodbye?" so I wanted to make one quick clarifying comment - I still think you need to be done talking to this girl for a substantial amount of time, but I don't think you need to be sudden and secretive. Tell her straight that you're unhappy like this and that the both of you need to move on, which'll never happen if you keep in touch before you're over one another. Tell her as gently as you can, but don't make it a negotiation.

No drama at all whatsoever. Don't do it; don't participate. That's how you wind up doing awful stuff you regret for a long time after you're done mourning the relationship. Be kind to her but be clear that you're done. Do it some place neutral so you don't have to then ask her to go home, nor make her home somewhere she gets to remember as a spot where a Sad Thing happened.

Then you delete any and all contact information you've got for her and go get on with your life.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:38 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've done a lot of AskMe archive reading and other research due to a similar feeling (but less complicated) relationship and I think kindfully and directly cutting contact is the right decision for you.

The deciding factor is that she has not been honorable to herself, to her children or to her marriage. If she honored herself, she would have left at the first incident of abuse. If she honored her children, she would not allow them to be in a home where abuse takes place (legally, spousal abuse in the view of children is considered child abuse and people who work with children or social agencies are legally required to report this under mandatory child abuse reporting laws.)

Damn her abuser husband, but if she was honorable to her marriage, she would have ended it before cheating with you regardless of (the very understandable, human) excuses and fears.

None of this is to say that she is a bad person. She just hasn't had enough inner-strength to take care of herself. You're not the person to teach her how to take care of herself. 1) You're way too biased, too many conflicts of interest. 2) It's a journey she'll have to take alone.

If she can't be honorable to herself and her children, she's not ready to be honorable to you.

You might take a look for the book Off to Sea: A Romance. It's an adult idea wrapped in a childrens book or maybe the other way around.

Full disclosure: I'm taking a different approach with my situation. My friend and I had a lot of great talks about how we were becoming better people together. She's put herself on the line to be honest and upright. I decided to keep contact and make an agreement with her that that was something special between us and that we should try to keep it. If contact becomes too much, I said that we could set a time to reconnect and try to become better on our own in the meanwhile. The idea is that if I actually succeed one way or another to become my best possible self, I'm going to be able to be a good friend and not be jealous or question her decisions and vice versa. So far it's been the hardest, most painful rollercoaster I've ever done in my life. No contact would be much, much easier. At the same time, it's really evident that we're both still becoming better people. It's a devil's bargain, really.

But with abuse and children in the equation, no contact makes the most sense, but you might discuss the idea of trying to become better, stronger, more centered individuals and reconnecting years later to see how it all turned out. Taking care of the children is way more important than the type of love you're talking about.

Until she has the inner-strength to leave her abuser husband, you're no good to her. If she comes to you in a crisis, do the absolute minimum to make sure she's safe in the moment and then point her directly at the YWCA or another domestic abuse agency. She has to make the decision to save herself.
posted by Skwirl at 11:02 PM on May 19, 2009

I'll "come off it", I guess - but if the origin story of your relationship is awkward to tell at parties, isn't that a sign of some larger problem? She's cheating on her husband with the OP - that doesn't bode well.

Most of us have been in love - multiple times. The OP is agonizing over this one woman, and I know how painful that is. When you get into a state like this, it's easy to forget that there's plenty of women out there, and many of them could be your "soul mate".

There's going to be other people to fall in love with, jbark. This situation obviously sucks, and the best thing you can do is get the hell away from it.
posted by CRM114 at 12:26 AM on May 20, 2009

And after re-reading my post: please don't think I'm trying to be intentionally callous. I know that this is really painful for your right now, jbark, and as much as I'm trying to make light of it, I know that real romantic love is a rare thing. But you've got a chance to make a clean break here, and I hope you take it.
posted by CRM114 at 12:33 AM on May 20, 2009

I'll throw in my usual suggestion: nothing makes the old fade away like something new.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:36 AM on May 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Tear off the band-aid and move on with your life.
posted by qvtqht at 3:10 PM on May 21, 2009

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