How should I move on? Should I even move on?
February 10, 2010 6:34 AM   Subscribe

What road to take during a devastating breakup? Be the supportive, hopeful, girl that will stay until the storm calms down OR move on with my life and leave the love of my life?

I posted this question last week:

Now, we are officially broken up. Our friends have pretty much been split down the middle and we are still living together (for financial reasons, such as lease/insurance, etc.). I am completely devastated. This guy was it for me and it is not like I am worried to get back into the single world and, in the future, date around, but I really thought I was done looking for anyone else. He stays he still loves me and cares about me, but just doesn't want to be in a relationship anymore. When I ask him why, all he tells me is that he was "unhappy," however, he never gives any specific reasons. He has told me several times that even he does not know why or what happened.

We had a few problems (as mentioned in the previous link) and a few MAJOR ones
I am recently made amends with his mom about what happened and we are fine and over the past. She has even stated that she was sorry to hear the news and felt that I was very good for her son. I am at a complete loss on what to do. I do not know, because of the current issues he has to deal with (death of a friend, grandpa being sick, job stress, and a big argument with me), if this is depression kicking in and him pushing away.

I feel like I should move on because I do not want to be with someone who does not want to genuinely be with me. However, I am also torn to think that this is a time he needs me the most. I am a firm believer that when one partner falls, the other should be strong for both and deal with anything and everything that goes on for both of them. I do not know if this is such a situation, or if I am falsely holding on to hope that is not there.
posted by penguingrl to Human Relations (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Apparently the links are not working. Here is another try.

Breakup Post

Family Drama Post
posted by penguingrl at 6:36 AM on February 10, 2010

It is possible to be supportive without being a girlfriend. I mean, even if you weren't his girlfriend, and he called you at 3 am to say "omigod I think someone's broken in, help" or "I'm just really having a hard time coping right now, can you come listen," you'd do it, right?

However, you also need to take care of yourself. You moving on isn't the same as completely abandoning him, it's just...moving on. You can always be someone he can call in an emergency, but for more mundane life need to take care of you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You don't have to put up with other people's crap. You have the option of doing so. Reiterate both of these concepts to yourself, because your decision as to what to do needs to reflect the values you hold dear. Maybe preservation of your boundaries matters more than seeing yourself as lingering around helpfully. Or maybe selflessness suddenly matters much more to you now after having your eyes opened to your past behavior.

You have to determine what matters to you, then act on it. If you want the guess of a stranger from the Internet, you're doing yourself and him a favor by keeping your distance. Both of you seem prone to hysterical flipping out, and it does neither of you any good. But again, choose the path that suits your own values.
posted by majick at 6:43 AM on February 10, 2010

This is just my opinion, but I think you should move on, but be supportive of him (as Empress Callipygos says). Having read your two other posts, I think that you've scared the crap out of him, and this may not be repairable. He's experienced or feared a lot of loss (grandfather, friend, job, family relationships) and you were the one stable thing he had... and you gave your engagement ring back and backed out of those plans. That level of loss and fear can be devastating. So, I think the best you can do is to move out, move on, but let him know you are available to offer support and an ear to listen should he decide to trust you with that.

And, if patching things up with his mother is an attempt to sway his feelings for you, I'd stop that as it will lead to resentment and possibly a sense that you are manipulating family members to force him back into a scary proposition.
posted by Houstonian at 6:48 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am a big fan of helping others, but in this case you need to take care of yourself and move on, even if you are not dating right now. I think if you stay around to help him you will be secretly hoping he will come to his senses and put "I love you penguingrl" on the jumbotron.

He has told you all you really need to know: he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you and he is unable or unwilling to talk about why.
posted by shothotbot at 6:49 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Despite all the love and caring you have for each other, the fact that he told you that he "just doesn't want to be in a relationship anymore" is what you need to pay attention to. There are so many factors involved here, especially when parents get involved, too. There is nothing wrong with wanting to "catch him" as he's falling, that is what I, too, believe a great relationship should include....but it sounds like he believes he doesn't "need" for you to catch him, or "want" you to catch him. Either way, as hard as it is, honor that and, echoing Empress, you need to look out for yourself and your heart.

Also, my personal skepticism couldn't help but wonder "did BF have thoughts of breaking up and is now using these personal tragedies to his advantage..?" Meaning, ok, you gave him an ultimatum at a tough time, but does he need to keep sacrificing you after you've repeatedly backed up and apologized for it?
posted by foxhat10 at 6:51 AM on February 10, 2010

When I ask him why, all he tells me is that he was "unhappy," however, he never gives any specific reasons. He has told me several times that even he does not know why or what happened.

I suspect he'll be happier if you just leave his life. He probably does have a specific reason for dumping you, but doesn't see the point in hurting your feelings any more than he already has.

All that B.S. in the breakup post about him not wanting you to move out, or tell anyone you broke up, or date anyone else is just an extreme example of someone who is so afraid of comittment that he can't even comit to breaking up!

This must be really hard on you, and I'm sorry about that. But this guy is doing everything he can to avoid responsibility or guilt. Get away from him. Don't be afraid to be angry at him.

posted by General Tonic at 7:06 AM on February 10, 2010 [11 favorites]

You need to move on, and move out as soon as possible. It is possible that he will change his mind in the future and want to try again, but it's quite likely that he will not. And you owe it to yourself to care more about yourself than to hang around moping and pining and *hoping* that he'll really truly does love you and want you back.

I'll echo what shothotbot said: "He has told you all you really need to know: he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you and he is unable or unwilling to talk about why." I was this way with my ex-husband. It took more than a year to be able to fully articulate why I couldn't stay in a relationship with him, which I know was devastating for him. But *he* made the decision to keep living in the same apartment with me for nearly a year after we separated, and it was a nightmare. And I can see that you continuing to stay with your ex-bf will be the same. You need to care more about yourself right now.
posted by noxetlux at 7:11 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are lots of reasons for not saying why you are unhappy - maybe you can't articulate the reasons, maybe you don't want to be suckered into an argument about the validity of your feelings, maybe you don't want to hurt someone's feelings, and maybe you want to make it clear to the yourself and the ex that the intimacy is over and you are no longer sharing things. Those are all valid.

You were in the relationship as long as he was. You have all the information you need.

Move on. I'm not saying run off and date someone new as fast as you can find him, I'm saying pick yourself up and devote yourself to your single life.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:27 AM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

I am a firm believer that when one partner falls, the other should be strong for both and deal with anything and everything that goes on for both of them.

I'm sorry, but you're not his partner any more.

I know that hurts. I know that's painful. I know you want to help him, because you've meant so much to one another in the past. But you need to take care of yourself now, and stop trying to find rationality in this break-up. Stop seeking validation from his family. Stop trying to take care of him. When it comes down to it, he doesn't love you like you want, and deserve, to be loved--not enough to be happy in a relationship, which is what you want, right? You both deserve to be in relationships that are sane and stable and fulfill your needs. For whatever reason, you're not that person for him. And if he were really the person for you, you would be.

Please go stay with friends or family for a few weeks, and start making plans to move out. Work on yourself, not on him. And move on.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:31 AM on February 10, 2010 [9 favorites]

Your support must be freely given. Be certain that you aren't weaving expectations that when he gets better, he'll come back. It will be really, really hard not to do this, no matter how hard you try not to.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:40 AM on February 10, 2010

Don't beat yourself up for wanting to be with someone who doesn't want to be with you. That's more or less the human condition, and many poets and songwriters (unfortunately I think mostly male, as unrequited feelings experienced by men tend to be seen as romantic and by women as pathetic, which is a shame, but I'm happy to be corrected if my impression is wrong) have made good work from it.

But it sounds like this is done. At least for now. Tell him that you still care him and want to be with him, and while you can't make any promises, you don't see that changing, and if one day he feels differently you would want to know,

and then leave and take care of yourself.

Regarding the 'for now'/'it might change part', by no means is the implication of that to wait for him or mope for him or put your life on hold in any way.

This is my friend's story that I think about sometimes:

She was totally completely in love with her middle school (or HS) boyfriend, and devestated when he broke up with her. She only wanted him back. Eventually, she got him back. This is what she told me: "If I'd *known* he was coming back, I would have had so much more fun in the mean time!"

So have the fun anyway. Because being sad and missing him DO NOT help bring him back. And in both your best case scenario (he eventually comes back) and your worst case (he never does), you'll wish that you had done whatever you could to enjoy yourself, adventure, explore (romantically and otherwise), and see what else is out there.

Another thought - even if it is his depression pushing you away, so what? His depression is part of him and if this is the case (ie, not all depressed people are like this in all of their relationships), he's not capable of staying committed to your relationship, and what kind of a basis is that for a long term relationship? (ie, some day, if *he* doesn't die first, it won't just be his grandmother and friend who died, it'll be his parents and many of his friends)? Or, it's a more important part of him to him than you are.

So basically I'm saying, let this go. Really, you have no other choice anyway.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:51 AM on February 10, 2010

From experience I strongly urge you to move out. Your whole first paragraph sounds like my story. Let me explain.

My marriage ended in a similar fashion (complete with family drama and death). The ex had been pulling away from me for several years and whenever I asked his answers were always something like "I don't know, I'm just unhappy. I don't know why. I don't know what I want to do about it." All sorts of ambivalence about our marriage, etc. It eventually turned into "Sometimes I love you, sometimes I don't" and "I don't think I'm cut out to be married to anyone." Of course I made a commitment to my spouse, so I was there and supportive and did whatever I could to try and make him happy (looking back, I was trying to fix something that I had no control over). He was depressed, but he was making no effort to change his situation or seek help. I was doing all the work, and he was just fine with that.

It all ended one day when we were talking about moving (I had taken a new job, which was our plan together) and we pretty much blurted out at the same time "I don't want to move with you/I don't want you to come with me." Our initial agreement was that we were going to take some time apart to fix ourselves and then see if we could come back together. That was never his intention though because he quit contacting me, I realized that I was TIRED of doing all the work and filed for divorce. I still have never gotten the answer to "Why?" from him, and I never will. I've had to come to terms with that (some good advice on that here).

So, as hard as it is right now, move out and take care of yourself. You don't necessarily have to start dating right now...just have some space. There's a lot of "stuff" there that you need to work through and it's not all going to happen at once (My marriage ended barely a year and a half ago). You can still be a supportive friend and can still be there for him, just don't live with him. It's possible that he gets his head on straight and you two can start over, but do not be surprised if that doesn't happen. You definitely don't want to make a marriage commitment and have to go through the whole scenario again.

MeMail me if you need to talk.

(Oh, and my ex, who told me that he's not cut out for marriage and I honestly thought wouldn't get married ever again? He remarried 2 months ago. That was a swift kick in the gut. But it also jolted me forward in figuring out some of my own stuff.)
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:59 AM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Move out and move on. Moving on does not mean that you necessarily write off any future reconciliation. It means that, in the short term, you are taking care of yourself and not waiting around for someone else to figure out how awesome you are, because you deserve better than that. It means that in the long term, you might meet someone else. You might meet a number of someone elses. You might eventually reconcile with this one person, when they've worked out their problems. It's hard to take the risk when your heart wants to be with that one person, but my personal experience indicates that it's a risk you SHOULD take.

Here's my story: my ex broke up with me very suddenly a week before Christmas, with no warning and no explanation, after three years. I kind of waited around for a few months, taking his calls in which he would list all the terrible things that were wrong with me (like how I like the sheets tucked in at the foot of the bed--no kidding) in the hopes that at some point he would wake up and want me back. Then I got sick and tired of waiting for him to figure out how awesome I was, quit taking his calls, and promptly met someone way more awesome who treats me a million times better than the ex ever did. Right around the time I moved on, my ex did come to his senses and wanted another chance. Now, had my ex been a nicer person than the new guy, I was still free to take up our relationship again. That didn't happen in my case, but it's not out of the question. I do firmly believe that my ex would not have stopped taking me for granted had I not clearly stopped putting up with his bullshit and started moving on with my life.

So moving on is beneficial for many reasons. It gives you the strength and grace to actually move forward with your life instead of wallowing in grief and longing. It opens you to new opportunities in life and love. It can jar selfish exes into realizing what they're about to lose if they don't get their shit together. But most importantly, it saves your sanity and is about treating yourself how you deserve, even--especially--if someone else isn't.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:30 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's nothing you can do to repair this. He made the choice to end your relationship. You will never really know why he made that choice. It's simply a fact you need to accept.

Either move immediately or fill the house with friends to diffuse the situation. Take road trips to visit friends for the weekend. You want to curtail "alone time" with him since it isn't helping you or him. Make moving a priority in your life, because at some point one of you is going to want to date someone else. That will be painful all around.

I get the whole idea of being there for your partner in good times and bad. There are two caveats to that. First, you both need to agree to those rules. Both partners need to be willing to help and to accept help. Otherwise you've got one person being a martyr. Martyrdom is relationship cancer. The second caveat is that sometimes relationships are broken in ways that cannot be mended. If both partners aren't working to fix problems there's nothing one person can do. That's where you are. He doesn't want to fix this.

Move out. Move on.
posted by 26.2 at 8:37 AM on February 10, 2010

Find a way to move out, and stay out of his affairs (and keep him out of yours) for at least a month. Staying together is not healthy, and you really need some time apart to reorient your head. If you and he stay in contact without a time-out, you just prolong the breaking-up process.
posted by adamrice at 8:37 AM on February 10, 2010

For pete's sake, move out. And if you've got a list of reasons why that can't/shouldn't be done, then you're really not interested in advice at all.

Because it's the only advice that makes sense.
posted by the bricabrac man at 8:41 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Please move on. It occurs to me that a guy who breaks up and doesn't want you to tell anyone (as per your breakup drama note) has control issues that would get in the way of a healthy relationship if you were to get back together. In other words, YOU could do better. You can love someone, feel sorry for their predicament, yet acknowledge that they're not right for you. It may be that you only think he's THE ONE because you have little room for comparison. Here is your opportunity.

As others have said, you need to move out to make the break. You might even need to not talk to him for a while. Despite what he's going through right now, you have the right to do this and I don't think it's "heartless" -- it's what you need, and you have to take care of yourself to be any good to anyone else. As a friend of mine puts it, "there's a reason you put on your own oxygen mask first and then put your child's on when the airplane you're in has a pressure drop."

Another suggestion, though: Don't get back into a relationship right away. It's tempting to fill in the feeling of a gaping hole in your heart with a new relationship. Sometimes, though, we need to patch up the gaping hole ourselves, especially if the gaping hole is a result of childhood issues and we expect "The ONE" to magically fix that. I don't know if this is your situation, but some people who put up with a lot of drama and on-again off-again in their relationships have this problem (I know I did). Get to know and love you, and figure out what you need in a relationship.
posted by lleachie at 8:42 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your partner is jerking you around. It may be out of pain, it may be because he's going through a lot, but he is giving you all sorts of crap and you're just lying there and letting him take advantage of you because you love him. If you saw a friend in your position, would you say "Yes, please, continue living with him while he plays with your emotions and gives you false hope you might get back together and desires all the continuous emotional support of a relationship without any of its responsibilities to the feelings of the other person."

When my ex and I broke up, I was there. I tried to make sure our mutual friends were there for him. I bent over backwards to smooth things out. He did some really underhanded, douchebag shit to me in its wake and I thought I should just take it because it might make him feel better and I still loved him.

I was wrong, and you are wrong. It didn't lessen his pain a whit and it made things so much worse for me, and now, with time in between that period, I realize I respect him so much less than I did because I stood there watching while he thrashed about. Love does not give anyone a free ride to abuse you. Someone hurting during a breakup does not mean they get to throw whatever shit they want. His behavior to you is fucked up and manipulative--the best thing after any breakup is to sever and get the hell out, not live together, not speak, so you can each deal with your pain in your own way. Staying up in each other's business is a recipe for confusion and heartache, as you're finding out now.
posted by schroedinger at 8:44 AM on February 10, 2010 [13 favorites]

You've been miserable over this guy for quite some time, as evinced by the multiple questions you've asked and anguished over. Here's a rule: if you have to ask more than one "should we break up" question about the same relationship in, say, a two year period, the relationship is over.

Your relationship is over. I know that's sad and awful, but it is. And now you need to do all of the things that someone who has just been broken up with needs to do: move out, get a new hobby, cut your hair in some crazy way, eat ice cream, and do not have contact with him until your feelings have healed.

I know that you feel guilty because you think that you're abandoning him. I suspect, however, that at least part of that is something you're telling yourself because it gives you a good reason not to leave. But you need to leave, and to do that, you need to remember that you're not abandoning him. If anything, he abandoned you. He may not have done it intentionally, and it sucks that he's gone through so much, but he pushed you away. And that means that it's not your job to stick around. It's your job to leave and move on with your life.
posted by decathecting at 8:58 AM on February 10, 2010

Listen to schroedinger's wise advice.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:06 AM on February 10, 2010

You have more emotional investment in the relationship than he does, and he has no incentive to stay and work it out. This sounds harsh and old-fashioned, but generally, committed and living together does not require the same level of emotional investment as committed and married. Why stay and battle it out when there is nothing to lose by walking? This is true for both of have no obligation to him.

He stated that it's over and he doesn't want to be in a relationship, so take him at his word and move on. It's natural that you want to know why he is unhappy, so you can fix it and not break up, but he seems set on this course of action and there isn't much you can do at this point.

Move out, get on with your life, get to know yourself, live by yourself, date, mature. Trust me, in three years, you won't even know each other.
posted by socrateaser at 10:04 AM on February 10, 2010

If you do not make a clean break, you will be back here in 9 months. You will not have a chance to heal. HE will not have a chance to heal.

I do not mean to be unkind but he is trying to have his cake and eat it too. He doesn't have the balls to just do it and move on. He still wants you around because it is comfortable and convenient for him. The whole "partners stick together" thing only works WHEN YOU'RE IN A PARTNERSHIP. You're not. It ended.

I know because I went through something frighteningly similar. I finally made a break. He never spoke to me again - in fact, he has not ever mentioned me in the 11 years since it happened. The #1 piece of advice I give everyone in a breakup is YOU CANNOT BE FRIENDS for at least the halflife of the relationship. Some people are exceptional and can do it. Most of us can't.

Good luck. Be strong.
posted by micawber at 1:11 PM on February 10, 2010

If you only want to be there to help because you are holding out hope the two of you may one day be together, then you should move completely on until that hope is dead. Otherwise, you're doing it for the wrong reasons and could end up hurting yourself even worse or complicating his recovery from the various emotional impacts he's been through recently.

I'm sorry. I know that situation too well, and I hope you've plenty of support as you work through the grieving process.
posted by batmonkey at 1:30 PM on February 10, 2010

You're not partners now. What he needs most from you -- not wants, perhaps, but needs -- is for you to stand up for yourself by moving on. Schroedinger is right: he's jerking you around. I've made the mistake myself of bending over backwards to tolerate a load of crap. It's all too easy to fall into that trap. But in the end, it isn't real kindness; it's idiot compassion. His walking all over you isn't good for either of you in the long run. It hurts you, and it erodes his self-respect.
posted by sculpin at 1:50 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Move out as soon as possible and sever contact for a while so you can put your life back together. This guy is not your boyfriend. He's not your friend. He doesn't want you anymore. He doesn't love you the way you deserve to be loved. It's time to go.

I know it hurts like a sucking hole in your chest. I know every fiber of your being is screaming, "No, no, it can't be over! I can make this work!"

You can't make it work. Even if you could make it work, would you want to? You can do better. You owe it to yourself to do better, in fact.

It's true that you owe support to your friends. He's not your friend and thus you owe him nothing. Get out and don't look back. Don't make yourself miserable for someone who doesn't reciprocate your feelings. You're better than that.
posted by balls at 7:52 PM on February 10, 2010


I just memailed you regarding your last ask, and my opinion stands.


Your ex-boyfriend sounds incredibly immature (and his family/mom dysfunctionally dangerous - ie, she only supports you now that you are the ex...) that I encourage you to cut all ties with these folks asap.

Furthermore, there is every possibility (growing up in a fucked up family) that your ex-bf suffers from some form of personality disorder, specifically narcissism.

Narcissist personalities often vacillate between loyalty and betrayal, I love you but I'm not good enough, I just don't know but then I must keep you - and everything in between. They are seductive AND misaligned with their statements. They are not in your best interest.

Penguingrl - I've read all of your asks, answers, and updates. I do not come by this pronouncement lightly.

I'm hoping you get in touch so I can help point you to sources of support.

You don't have to wade through this alone or without expertise. Overwhelmed as you must be, there are professionals out there (including books!) that can help you process this event in your life.

posted by jbenben at 2:26 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

« Older earning brownie points inside a company   |   Crazy-print-pattern collared shirts Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.