I'm probably moving. Do I stay in this relationship or do I go?
June 13, 2009 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm in a relationship but unhappy where I live and planning to move. My boyfriend may not wind up joining me. Is it better to cut off the relationship or pursue a long distance relationship again for a little while?

I'm twenty six and a girl; for the past eight or so years I've been dating this fella five years my senior. He is the only guy I have kissed/dated/etc so my viewpoint's pretty limited. We were for a long while a long distance relationship, and three years ago I moved 2000+ miles to the Southwest to be with him. The time spent with him has overall been a good one; he's one of my best friends and I am constantly laughing and feel more or less at ease with him. There are of course some issues like all relationships, but we've dealt with them as best we can.

The big issue at hand though is that I hate where I am. He keeps telling me it takes a few years to feel settled in, but the climate and the sprawl of the place make me miserable most of the time. Beyond that, apart from the very casual friendships I have made at a night-job, I really have no friends here and it's made things unbearably lonely. So I'm really restless and feeling like I need a major change in my life. We've discussed this big issue a lot and he admits it can be a boring place and he doesn't think I should spend my twenties in a place that makes me sad, so he agrees I should move. But at the same time he couldn't move right away and possibly might not at all. I know it causes him pain to know he's not enough for me so at the moment I've been keeping mum about moving talk until things are a little more concrete beyond the daydreaming and saving money phase.

Things are falling into place that would make it possible for me to move up to Portland, OR; I am self-employed in the creative industry, and I know a lot of creative friends up there and loved the place when I visited. I've found post-college that I need a circle of creative people, and I do need friends. The internet helps, but still it's not the same. I'm saving to make the plunge within the next year, but as I do so I realize that it might be the end of my relationship. And this makes me torn on how to proceed.

Some details/issues/mitigating factors-

-He is a gamer. Big-time. He plays computer games every night, and left to his devices he'd be totally addicted to them. It's practically his only hobby, so it's hard to really do much else together besides eating, talking, sleeping, and watching tv. I would mind this less if we lived someplace where I was more mobile or had other things to do. Right now I work while he games, basically. I work a lot.

-He tends to take me for granted, but at the same time is very thoughtful and helpful when it counts so it does make up for it.

- we own a dog we both love very much, but who is slightly more attached to me. Since I work at home and am her predominant caretaker, I'm pretty certain he'd want her to come with me, although if he really wanted her I would give her to him.

-He has a circle of friends that he's accumulated since grade school, which I would hate for him to lose touch with.

-He doesn't have a lot of ambitions beyond staying above the poverty line and he owns a house that he got when he was 20 and this is his main investment (though it has several big repairs it needs before it could even be sold)

-His job is very much a niche and he's in a job he really likes, although it doesn't sound like he wants to spend his whole career there. Most jobs I've found for him are contract work or else require more knowledge/classwork/a degree and understandably that's concerning to him.

-He is not very motivated these days. Before I met him apparently he was a very angry person and that anger motivated him to work out, do more. But he's more laid-back and forgetful, so things like staying fit or taking classes have been put off here and there. His lack of motivation makes him complacent and sometimes boring. I feel like he really needs something to set him off and start being more proactive in his life, though I'm not sure a breakup is the best way to do it!

-I know he considers me the love of his life; I am not entirely sure I feel the same way. I love him dearly but at the same time sometimes pine for someone creative like me, or to be alone. As is, we are pretty different people and while this is good sometimes I'm not sure he understands me. At the same time this is the only guy I've been with, so part of me wonders if I might be alone for the rest of my life if I break up with him. Not enough to be afraid to go through with it, but I do wonder a little.

I know that there's still time to work this out, but I don't know what to do yet and I will be thinking about this for a while until we start talking about it when it is a little closer to reality. I love him dearly and best case scenario he'd come out to live with me and try something new to shake himself up out of this complacent mood he's been in. But all discussions seem to lead to excuses why that couldn't happen in the short term (the house, job, big change-- valid, but excuses all the same). But I really don't know what he'll do until I do it-- when I go on trips he misses me greatly and feels bored and realizes he takes me for granted. Perhaps if I move on my own and keep in touch in a long-distance way again, he may realize that being without me isn't as good. Perhaps not; it's a gamble. If we are to ultimately break up, I want to do it as kindly and amicably as possible-- he is a good guy despite his flaws, and really this isn't as much about him as it is about me and my restless and lonesome nature. It's not a DTMFA situation or anything. Ideally I want to stay friends with him, but I think he said a long time ago he probably couldn't stay friends with me if we ever broke up, so that's a painful possibility I'm willing to deal with.

So I guess what I'm wondering is what would you do, would you tear the band-aid off, chop off the limb and move on (sort of a be cruel to be kind thing?) Or would you see how things would go for a while in a long-distance format and then decide a little later when we both know more about the situation? I've done the long-distance thing, and it sucks but I know I can do it (whether I want to again, I'm still deciding). I can't decide whether breaking up or staying together for long distance for a bit to see where we stand is kinder to both of us. Either way it'll end up with us both sad for a time, but I'm divided on what will hurt more. And if I do break up with him, I'm not sure how to do it in a way that will sting as little as possible. Making him sad makes me sad, so if you have any advice on that too I'd love to hear it.

I'm sorry that this is long, but I wanted to give details. If you have been in a similar situation, I've set up an email address at ldrtopdx@gmail.com and would love to hear what you experienced or what you might do if you were me. Thanks everyone in advance!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The thing is, you're not going to be able to predict, in a relationship, whether action X or action Y will work better; people aren't equations.

In general, I just don't think it's a good idea for people to not date at least a few people before they settle down. With that caveat, there are things in your question that raise some concerns for me. What is it that you want to do for you? Your wants seem sublimated to his. It's also not likely that he's going to stop taking you for granted, if the only time he appreciates you is when you're not around. You're letting him call all the shots, even to the point of letting him decide whether the dog goes with you. Do you even want to take the dog, even though you love her?

You have to look out for your own happiness, and you've stated that you're not happy where you are. You also sound, if not unhappy, then at least ambivalent, in your relationship. If you're unhappy where you are, be a location or relationship, then you need to make a change. It's time to grow and change. How you break up with him is irrelevant; just be kind.
posted by runningwithscissors at 1:27 PM on June 13, 2009

At the same time this is the only guy I've been with, so part of me wonders if I might be alone for the rest of my life if I break up with him.

Look, I understand your position--I've only been with one person, too--but this is crazy. Of course you'll find someone else, and you definitely shouldn't stay with someone just because you're afraid you're otherwise unlovable. Seriously, I promise you that if you break up, you'll find other decent guys out there.

He sounds pretty happy where he is geographically and in life. Would you want to stay with him forever if things never changed? Would you be unhappy with him if he were the same way 20 years from now? I've had friends date other hardcore gamers that sound pretty similar to your SO; because they got an outlet from their ambition and competitiveness that way, they were often unmotivated outside the virtual world. If you want to be someone who is at least willing to support your ambitions, he really doesn't sound like the guy for you. Particularly considering the fact that you might be talking about a permanent long distance situation if you stay with him.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:44 PM on June 13, 2009

Think about this some more. Eventually, you'll realize what you want to do. Think about starting a new life in Portland- would you be happier starting fresh, without a long distance relationship, or would having this relationship in your life be supportive as you make a new start? Can you imagine being happy spending the rest of your life with this person?

I went through a much (much) less complex version of this situation with my boyfriend before leaving for college in Massachusetts. I hemmed and hawed when my friends asked me what we were going to do, but eventually I realized all my "Oh, we don't know yet"s were just hiding the fact that I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It wasn't easy for him, but in hindsight breaking up with him was absolutely the right decision for me. Your situation doesn't have a ton in common with mine, but I feel like you're approaching this too much from the perspective of what's easiest and best for him- not what's best for you.
posted by MadamM at 1:48 PM on June 13, 2009

I wouldn't try to have a long-distance relationship in this scenario. If there's not a lot of possibility of him joining you (or you moving back), what's the point? Eight years is a long time and that's something to consider. Still, if you don't want to stay there and he doesn't want to move, then well, that's kind of your answer. You sound like you're at two different places in your lives and maybe it's time for you (both of you) to move on. (I think it's awesome if relationships/marriages last forever, but at the same time, I think it's perfectly OK if they don't. Sometimes these things run their course.)

(While you don't sound particularly unhappy, you don't sound all that happy in your relationship either. I'm not necessarily saying he's holding you back but it seems like what you want are at odds with that you're with him. I've reread the question a few times and I can't really figure out what you're getting out of this relationship.)
posted by darksong at 1:50 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you think he might ever try to move, you could try the LDR for a while. If it's clear that he'll never leave where he is now, and you know you can't live there forever, you need to break up. You've tried living somewhere new for him, he hasn't, so it seems like you've put forth the effort and it's not working out.
posted by ishotjr at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

-He is a gamer. Big-time. He plays computer games every night, and left to his devices he'd be totally addicted to them. It's practically his only hobby, so it's hard to really do much else together besides eating, talking, sleeping, and watching tv....

-He tends to take me for granted ....

-He doesn't have a lot of ambitions beyond staying above the poverty line ....

-He is not very motivated these days.... His lack of motivation makes him complacent and sometimes boring.

Your boyfriend doesn't sound like much of a catch ... in fact, the above aspects of your description were making him sound like a pretty major loser.

When you combine the fact that you hate where you are and intend to move, and that he does not want to come with you, and that he's kind of a garden-variety loser, it seems like a no-brainer to dump him and move on with your life.
posted by jayder at 2:52 PM on June 13, 2009 [6 favorites]

If you have to ask, you already know.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:53 PM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh honey. You are going to move and outgrow this guy so very fast. Tear the band-aid off, chop off the limb and move on. Because you really need a chance to bloom.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:09 PM on June 13, 2009 [9 favorites]

There's a reason people rip bandaids off quickly - and that's because, even though it hurts more, it's over sooner. You are going to leave anyway - it's already been written - move on and don't look back.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:13 PM on June 13, 2009

I second jayder and ishotjr. You don't sound madly in love with this guy at all. It sounds like you find the relationship...pleasant. That's just settling.

And yeah, he does sound like the equivalent of a bump on a log. He ain't moving, he's happy where he is, and he doesn't care if you move? He won't miss you much when you're gone.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:37 PM on June 13, 2009

Forgot to add: When you do break up with him (and I suspect that it's a "when" and not an "if," the band-aid approach really is best. Trying to be friends or to keep in touch only prolongs the pain.
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:57 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Having been pointlessly pre-emptively broken-up-with before (in the "I think it'll suck more to be long-distance than it sucks to dump you now" (which by the way was a lot of suck for both of us)), I am biased towards attempting the LDR & seeing what happens. That being said, I agree with others who've said that it sounds like there are a lot of circumstances that might make getting it over with now more advantageous for you. I just tend to err on the side of caution; after all, you can always break up later if it's not working well for you, but it's harder to get back together after a pre-emptive break-up.
posted by oh really at 4:32 PM on June 13, 2009

It sounds to me like you are really ready to move on and hoping to find a way to break up that won't make you feel guilty. I think you should stop telling yourself that it would be cruel to break up with him. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who is pining for a completely different life?

I think that when it's all said and done, you boyfriend will probably understand that you have to take care of yourself and at least try to realize a happier lifestyle for yourself. If he does make all these realizations you are hoping for (that he takes you for granted, etc.), the door is still open for you two to work something out later.
posted by mustard seeds at 9:05 PM on June 13, 2009

I have this image of you having a fun life with lots of creative friends and him having a loser life playing games on the couch in the suburbs. Why not go live the life you want and rather than break up or not, instead basically say "look, this is me and what I want, and if you want to be with me enough, get your shit together and come and we'll have fun, but I can't languish in this world you live in watching you play video games; I'm lonely and bored."

In other words, you each have a natural environment, and right now, you've sunken down into his (depressing, isolating) world. Why not turn the tables, go live life on your terms, and if he wants to rise up to join you in your (creative, fun, interactive) world, so be it, and if not, well, then you break up.
posted by salvia at 10:55 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're not happy living like this. He is. You could reconcile yourself to this and stay with him, and it would be okay, but it will probably never really fill you with joy. When you move away and start living the way you want to instead of the way he wants to, you are going to be so much happier; you might even wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Keeping a long distance relationship with him will still tie you do this thing that isn't working (because it doesn't sound like it's just the location that you're having issues with, but also, the way he is--not that there's anything wrong with how he is, just that it isn't what you need). Long distance is fine but only so long as you have concrete plans to merge your lives, and you've already tried this with him. If you don't break up with him and leave, I predict that you will end up slowly breaking up with him as time passes. So leave, don't look back, and be confident.
posted by Polychrome at 2:29 AM on June 14, 2009

You've sacrificed a lot here: friends, proximity to family, climate, living in a sprawled place, access to other creative people and creative job markets, etc etc. It's not working. You both agree that you should move.

If you act on this agreement and move to Portland and he's not willing to move with you and make the same sacrifices for you that you've made for him, then you're not going to be together. This is as much his choice as it is yours. Please don't stay in a situation where you make 100% of the sacrifices 100% of the time and you're miserable and he's okay. If he was doing amazing and you were just okay but it might get better... I would hesitate more. But that's not how you've described it.

It's pretty clear from what you've written and how you've written it that you know what you want. Let me encourage you to act on all those desires, because they all sound eminently reasonable. In fact, it sounds unreasonable of him to expect you not to act on them and for him not to even try to figure out a way that you can be together and not in a place that is slowly killing you.

The bit about him being sad that he's not "enough for you"... meh, that is immature of him. He can't and shouldn't be your whole world. You shouldn't be expected to have only One Thing in your life that makes you happy while the rest is shit. If you went by that reasoning, why isn't he jumping at the chance to move to Portland where you can be happy and he can be ... happy because you are "enough for him"? See, even he doesn't really believe in that.

And let me assure you that it is downright healthy to want something different at 26 than you did at 18. You weren't wrong then; you're not wrong now, you're just growing up and learning about yourself. Move to Portland, find jobs and friends that bring out the best in you, and there will be boys there waiting. Definitely.
posted by heatherann at 7:56 AM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

-He tends to take me for granted, but at the same time is very thoughtful and helpful when it counts so it does make up for it.

It should always "count" to be thoughtful and helpful and it should be something you get automatically.

(Also, nthing jayder.)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:58 AM on June 15, 2009

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