Tell me DTMFA, and tell me how.
July 15, 2010 3:38 PM   Subscribe

I know I need to break up with him. But I Just. Can't. Do it. Apparently, I would rather torture myself for months and months and months, second-guessing every thought I have. Help.

I have been dating an extremely wonderful guy for ten months. He loves me tremendously, and wants to spend his life with me. We have talked marriage, we have talked children. But there are significant, relationship-threatening issues present, I have tried repeatedly to address them, and they aren't getting addressed. I've had it. I need to end this. But whenever I think about actually telling him, I am completely frozen, paralyzed by guilt.

I have broken up with him once before, I was so terrified to do it that I had to send him an email. When we got together to talk about it, I let him talk me into starting the relationship up again. For a while, it looked like everything was okay, a lot of the issues I'd brought up as problems were being addressed. But now we have reverted back to the way we were before, and I'm really not happy.

-- we've had sex maybe once every three weeks for the last six months or so. When we do, it's awkward. The last couple of times, we've stopped halfway through. He's never taken much of an interest in my pleasure, and rebuffs every attempt I make at talking about sex.

-- we don't laugh together, or have jokes together, or smile at each other. I smile at him, he doesn't smile back. I tell him about something I thought was hilarious or wonderful or great, and he just looks at me.

-- I have to practically beg him to kiss me. And when he does it lasts for a second and a half, and he pushes me away when I try to keep kissing him. It's like he recoils from me.

--We don't really have conversations. We talk about our day, and if I try to talk to him about something deeper, he's very willing to listen, but not so willing to talk back and forth about things. I don't have conversations with him the way I do with my friends. There's very little back and forth.

I have brought this stuff up repeatedly as a problem, in a kind but clear way. I have talked to him about it. I am going totally insane from lack of affection and laughter and joy in the most important relationship in my life. I can't do it anymore. He wants to go to counseling. I just want to give up.

But then I try to tell him and my heart just breaks, and I can't tell him. I had so many hopes invested in this relationship, and I know it's going to break his heart, and I don't want to stay, but I can't bring myself to go.

And so I lie awake at night, starved for affection, second and third and fourth-guessing myself, convincing myself that I'll be alone forever, that I'll never find anyone who loves me as much as this guy does, that I'm throwing away something so important and I'll hate myself if I do it. I think endlessly about the three and four-day-long periods sprinkled through our relationship when I was totally in love with him too, and I wonder if they'll come back to stay. I wonder what is wrong with me that I just can't accept him as he is and be happy in this relationship without sex, without laughter, without conversation, without friendship. I feel like I'm dying of thirst, and he's got the jug of water, and he just doesn't understand why it's such a big deal that he won't give me any.

Aargh. I need to end this relationship, right? How do I do it?
posted by troublemenot to Human Relations (62 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Geez, do the counseling. If working things out is impossible, a good counselor will support your need to end the relationship. And it won't just be your unspeakable secret.
posted by bearwife at 3:42 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wonder what is wrong with me that I just can't accept him as he is and be happy in this relationship without sex, without laughter, without conversation, without friendship.

Um, nothing?

What is so great and wonderful and amazing about him? He isn't affectionate. He doesn't get what it is that's troubling you. You have a hard/impossible time communicating. You aren't getting your needs met.

I know breaking up is hard. I've done it and had it done to me. The alternative to staying in a shitty relationship is not "Oh god I'll be alone forever." The alternative is getting out of a shitty relationship, taking time to figure out who you are now, and going out and meeting new people.
posted by rtha at 3:42 PM on July 15, 2010 [15 favorites]

You don't need to justify why you want to break up with him, not to him, not to anyone reading AskMe. There are many threads giving instructions on how to break up without drama, dealing with the aftermath, etc.
posted by halogen at 3:44 PM on July 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

So the sex is bad... the talking is bad... what is good here? The fact that he has affections for you but never seems to show it?

You need to get out of this. Now. For both of your sakes. Meet him during the day at your home, explain that it is over, definitely over -- not that it is over because he hasn't fixed x, y, and z (because in the heat of the moment he will promise to fix problems that you know he can not fix). Then cut off contact with him to the best of your ability. For both of your sakes.
posted by telegraph at 3:46 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pull off the band-aid already. Just rip it off. It's gross under there, but it will never heal until you get the damn thing off you.

I know this advice sounds is simplistic, but the metaphor has really helped me make a lot of decisions I would otherwise have waffled on. Good luck!
posted by Aquaman at 3:49 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Miko's comment is the definitive way to go here.
posted by kch at 3:50 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

that I'll never find anyone who loves me as much as this guy does

Gee, if this is the way he "loves" you, then for your sake I kinda hope you don't find anyone who loves you like he does.

I wonder what is wrong with me that I just can't accept him as he is and be happy in this relationship without sex, without laughter, without conversation, without friendship. I feel like I'm dying of thirst, and he's got the jug of water, and he just doesn't understand why it's such a big deal that he won't give me any.

You've hit the nail on the head here, except you need to strike through "me" in "what is wrong with me" and replace it with "him". What is wrong with him??? Because I do think there is something wrong with a guy who doesn't want to make love and laugh and cuddle and talk with someone who loves him. This is not your fault.

You know this, right....what you're asking is how to bite the bullet and do it. Well, it sounds like you're really afraid to be alone and that's holding you back. But the thing is, you are alone, for all practical purposes. Yeah you have a body there beside you but you can't share anything meaningful with him. And being in this relationship prevents you from finding one that will make you happy. You have the worst of both worlds. If you can't walk away, then you may need therapy to find out why you're so afraid.

Do you live together? Are you dependent on him in some way? If there are material factors going on, then it's best to face up to them and be honest, that way you can spend your energy working on being independent, rather than living in denial about how unhappy you are.
posted by cottonswab at 3:52 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Look at it this way. You are unhappy. You can waste precious time out of your life, that you can't get back, just hemming and hawing and doing nothing. Or, you can take control of your life, make yourself happy, DTMFA, and move on. You'll find someone who has some sort of redeeming qualities and loves you. Have some self-esteem and claim the happiness you deserve.

How to do this? Woman-up, and say, "X, we are through. I wish you the best." Don't look back. You will be happy that you did so sooner, rather than putting your happiness on hold any longer.
posted by bolognius maximus at 3:52 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you are asking for permission to break up with this guy, and you certainly have AskMe's. Just don't do it via e-mail.
posted by Gin and Comics at 3:53 PM on July 15, 2010

This relationship will not work, if for no other reason than you believe it can't. You believe that you deserve more, (FWIW, I think you are right) and even if you don't, your relationship is already damaged by the belief that he can't fulfill your needs- emotional, mental, sexual.

You need to find someone who fulfills most of these needs. No one person can fulfill them all, so make sure you've come to terms with that. Find comfort in friends and family to fill those natural gaps.

But beyond that, staying in this relationship is equally unfair to your partner. He deserves someone who is satisfied by what he can offer, someone who isn't always looking over his shoulder for what else might be out there.

Don't email him. Respect dictates that you sit down with him and say, "This relationship isn't making me happy. I want us both to be absolutely, unconditionally happy. I hope we both can find that."

I've been in a relationship like this for the past two years. Coming out of it hurts like hell. But it gets easier when you think about the alternative-- spending every day feeling like you aren't worth his love, conversation, kisses, etc. You are worth that, and you will find someone who believes that, too.
posted by karminai at 3:54 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Um, I'm not so sure that OP is ready to end this relationship.

Ergo, I think counseling is a good idea -- you can safely express the deficits you are experiencing, see if your partner finally understands how important it is that he express the affection you are craving, and if not get some help and support in bringing the relationship to a close.

And if I'm misreading the content of this post, sorry, and I agree that Miko's comment lays down the best procedure for a clean breakup.
posted by bearwife at 3:54 PM on July 15, 2010

There's nothing wrong with you. You're just unhappy. You need to break up with him immediately. Don't offer him a drawn out explanation. Just do it. It's going to hurt tremendously for quite a long time. But eventually you'll meet someone else who's got a bigger jug of water and is willing to share.
posted by smokingmonkey at 3:55 PM on July 15, 2010

You don't have to feel guilty leaving someone who is not making you happy. It doesn't have to be more complicated than that. I don't really understand why you've stayed in this rut as long as it is, but your needs are not being met and that's that. He is on a different emotional level. I've known people like him, and I knew it wouldn't work out because of that. Some people are just not as expressive as others need a partner to be, and it's either a matter of accepting that (which many people can't do and many others shouldn't do) or shaking hands and moving on.

You're not going to die alone either, that's a sort of melodramatic lie our brains love to tease us with. Sit down with him, explain that you need a different sort of relationship dynamic, and that it appears that you two are just incompatible in that regard. I think he'll survive the heartbreak - as will you.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 3:56 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

bearwife, the title of the question is "Tell me to DTMFA and tell me how"

I would say OP is ready to end this relationship.
posted by resiny at 3:57 PM on July 15, 2010

Well, resiny, that's what I thought when I started reading, but I got a different impression by the time I finished.

So, OP, are you ready? If so, I'm with everyone else -- I support your decision to do so. If not, I'd suggest you use your partner's suggestion to get some help with this relationship.
posted by bearwife at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2010

I am a nice guy who on paper meets the requirements. I would so much more rather have you break up with me and break my heart than know that you are tortured by our relationship or you are settling or just not happy. If he is truly that good of a guy he will also feel this way. If he is not, then you should break up with him for that reason.

Pull the band aid off and tell him it is over.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:01 PM on July 15, 2010

that I'll never find anyone who loves me as much as this guy does
What makes you think he loves you? It doesn't seem like he cares for you or your feelings or your needs at all.

From how you describe him, I think anyone you meet would probably care more for you than what this guy does. The sooner you ditch him, the better as that will give you time to get over this and move on to finding a better person to spend your life with.
posted by bbyboi at 4:04 PM on July 15, 2010

I have brought this stuff up repeatedly as a problem, in a kind but clear way. I have talked to him about it.

That's good. But then you say that "I know it's going to break his heart" to break up with him. If he's so wonderful, then he's probably pretty smart, right? Don't you think he's smart enough to understand the complaints you've made, realize that they haven't been addressed, and also realize that this will likely lead to a breakup? Yet he doesn't seem to make any effort to avert that result. That doesn't sound like he'll be so crushed. Neither of you needs each other. You'll both be fine, you'll both move on.

I wonder what is wrong with me that I just can't accept him as he is and be happy in this relationship without sex, without laughter, without conversation, without friendship.

This makes very little sense. What is wrong with you that you don't want to be in a "relationship without sex, without laughter, without conversation, without friendship"? As rtha said, nothing. It is a good thing that you don't want to be in such a relationship. Something would be wrong with you if you did want to be in such a relationship. (Well, strictly speaking, nothing would be wrong with you if you wanted to be in a relationship with no sex -- that's a valid choice that some people make. But that's irrelevant to your situation, because that's not your preference.)

convincing myself that I'll be alone forever, that I'll never find anyone who loves me as much as this guy does

Even if there were a small risk that this would happen, would you rather take that risk but have the opportunity to start a new relationship, or be certain of staying in the relationship you're in?

He wants to go to counseling.

He may want to do this (especially since he clearly wants to keep the relationship in existence), but you don't need to do it when you've already made up your mind that you should make a clean break. I suppose you could go to counseling to get over your aversion to ending this relationship, but I don't think that's the kind of counseling he has in mind.

I know I haven't answered your main question of how to end it. As halogen says, there are already many threads on the mechanics. I don't think the medium or format or exact wording matters too much, but if you had a hard time with email before, maybe try something else. You have my permission to use any mode of communication you want and not feel bad that, even after almost a year of being together, you ended it by phone or email or any means necessary.

One more suggestion: I know this is harsh and nitpicky, but you might want to drop your "extremely wonderful guy" language if that's how you keep framing this issue in your mind. He may be wonderful at some things, but there's at least one thing he's really bad at: being in a relationship. There are other guys who share his good qualities but are good at being in a relationship. They have a better claim to being at the "extreme" of wonderfulness.

(I'm surprised that people are saying you should keep trying to make the relationship work after you've painted such a bleak picture and said you definitely want to end it. Your 4-point list with the dashes, combined with the fact that you've straightforwardly discussed the problems without ultimately getting anywhere, is a compelling, unequivocal case for breaking up.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:10 PM on July 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

But then I try to tell him and my heart just breaks, and I can't tell him. I had so many hopes invested in this relationship, and I know it's going to break his heart, and I don't want to stay, but I can't bring myself to go.

I have been on the other end of this in a relationship, and I would SO MUCH rather that I had gotten dumped X years into it, when he realized that he wasn't into it/me, than X+1 years, after wondering what the hell was going on for a pretty large chunk of time. If something is going to suck- and being dumped is pretty much always going to suck- rest assured that you are not helping things by delaying the inevitable. Consider his feelings and end it or, if you're not sure, invest in some couples counseling...but do *something.*

If you're not feeling it, and don't think you ever will, stop wasting his time, and yours.
posted by charmedimsure at 4:11 PM on July 15, 2010

I wonder what is wrong with me that I just can't accept him as he is and be happy in this relationship without sex, without laughter, without conversation, without friendship.

Well, cripes, why the hell would you accept that!? Those four things pretty much define a relationship for me, along with trust and loyalty.

Please, please, please get out now. Ten months is far oto early in a relationship to be dealing with all of the good features vanishing.

How do you do it? Stop wondering what's wrong with you.

Give yourself permission to want more.

Really truly wrap your head around the fact that it isn't fair to you, or to him, to settle for some tiny fraction of what you want from a relationship.

And then break it off.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:28 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

He doesn't carry out his side of a conversation, he doesn't return your smiles (let alone laugh with you), he doesn't instigate any kissing and won't put up with prolonged kissing, and the sex is awkward at best and he's not interested in your wants/needs. Until you mentioned that he wants to go to counseling, I couldn't understand what was stopping you from saying "I'm sorry, I am not getting what I need from a relationship from you."

I understand all relationships are different, but to me this sounds like a complete disconnect. No connection on a conversational, emotional or sexual level sounds like no connections to me, but I'll assume there's something in this relationship that you cherish (beyond not being alone, which is never a good reason to stay with someone).

If you are looking for a kind and considerate way to end things, I'll second kch's comment and say Miko had it.

Please don't embrace suffering in the name of not being alone. If being alone is your primary concern to the point you'll maintain a relationship for almost a year, then that might be something to talk get counseling for. Make friends and find personal happiness, don't turn to coupledom as a sign that you're OK. My heart goes out to you for trying to survive that emotional drought. You don't deserve this.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:29 PM on July 15, 2010

If you had someone in your life that you didn't have sex with and didn't kiss and didn't laugh with and didn't smile with, you wouldn't call that person your boyfriend of all things. So first I'm telling you he's not your boyfriend anymore. Now tell yourself he's not your boyfriend. Next tell him. There's not much more too it than stating the facts. And you'd tell him if he had something stuck in his teeth, so you can bring up this other unpleasant fact rather than letting him go on thinking he's your boyfriend when you and I both know he's not your boyfriend.
posted by oreofuchi at 4:32 PM on July 15, 2010 [11 favorites]

Commenting on my terrible boyfriend, my best friend said, "Love should be a banquet. Why are you settling for the crumbs that fall off the table?"

For some reason, this question, more than anything else I heard, made me take a hard look at what I was *actually* getting out of the relationship rather than what I thought that yeah, I might kinda, sorta deserve or aspire to get from it. The gap was so large that I couldn't ignore it. Once that realization came, I was freed up to say the words "I have to go." Because I didn't suspect it or think I might be ready; I *knew* in my gut and could do no other.

Goodbyes have the possibility for messiness, and I urge you to practice some relevant, personalized version of Miko's talking points. Then go to a public space together (assuming you can get yourself home on your own), sit down and say your piece.

This is something you need to do *for you,* but it is, perhaps, more tactful to frame it as freeing him to find the banquet he deserves.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:35 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I divorced that guy a few years back. You probably don't want to do that; it's pretty expensive and there's usually a waiting period where you have to hang around being not-really-married but not legally a free agent yet.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:35 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, seconding Jaltcoh: drop the absolutist "extremely wonderful guy" language -- it paints you into a corner, because if he's so wonderful, then you must be a bad person for wanting to break up, right?

Being realistic in these situations is suprisingly empowering. If you are someone who wants laughter, affection, and good communication in a relationship, then this is simply not the person for you, no matter how many good qualities he may possess. Those facts can coexist; it does not make you a bad person for wanting those basic factors in a relationship, nor does it make him a bad person for not being able to provide them. Simply put, you want something he is unable to provide; you want a partner that he cannot and will not be.

This doesn't make the situation any less painful; it will hurt if you break up. You will miss him for awhile if you aren't together. It's hard (but vital) to learn how to be happy and healthy while you're single. There is no way around any of this. But the sooner you get through the hurt of leaving the wrong relationship, the sooner you will eventually be in a position to find the person with whom you can craft the right relationship.

Aside from that: this book (which I recommend all the time) has a lot of useful insight into how to build healthy and satisfying relationships that you may find useful in understanding the gaps in your current relationship, and how to go down a different path in the future with potential partners. It also has a good chapter on breaking up that might be useful to you right now.

And finally: about 7 years or so ago, I found myself in a similar position as you -- really, deeply, desperately in love with someone who is wonderful in a lot of ways, but facing the fact that our relationship had hit a wall and I was miserable and it was never going to get any better. The breakup (which I initiated, and which included our getting back together briefly before ending it for good) was agonizing -- in some ways much more painful than my divorce, which I had gone through a few years earlier. I was so frightened of ending things that I could not believe at the time that I would ever, ever, ever feel better, nor that I would ever, ever, ever love or be loved again.

Well, I was wrong -- a point that was driven home just last week, when I went out for drinks with that same ex who I never believed I would get over, then went home to my sweet and awesome partner who I would have never met had I not gone through that seemingly life-ending breakup in the first place.

I would guess that your fears of never loving or being loved are just what mine were: fears, not facts. And I am also willing to guess that at some point down the road, you may have a story similar to mine where you look back and heave a sigh of relief that you decided to move on when you did.

tl;dr: The only way you stop dying of thirst is to walk away from a dry well and go find some water. Good luck.
posted by scody at 4:36 PM on July 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

Your wording seems to imply that you may have some co-dependency issues. You might start by taking advantage of any EAP you may have access to or to find a Codependency support group. That would be a start to the how to break up process. First of all, work on those issues of yours that make you feel "guilty" when you want to assert your basic needs and rights in a relationship. That way your next relationship will be better too.

There are lots of books that teach you how to be assertive without being abusive. I would also recommend How To Avoid Marrying A Jerk as a good model for healthy relationship formation.

Next, get your people about you. Don't be in isolation with your boyfriend as your only social outlet. Go out with the girls. Reconnect a bit with friends. You are going to need a good sounding board when this thing goes down.

Next, decide for yourself the terms you want for your relationship going forward. Still friends? What does that mean? What does that not mean? You can propose anything from a "friend zone" type arrangement or a complete cutoff, but you need to be very specific about how that will look on a day to day basis. Think of how often you would like to communicate, text, get together, whatever. I assume sex would be out but what level of physical contact would you allow?

Think about how you would like to arrange for the returning of personal items in a way that matches your boundaries and will make you feel safe. Maybe arrange to give them to a mutual friend as a sort of swap point rather than the awkward meeting at each others' places.

Then practice a very firm but gentle way of telling him what you want and what you propose that would look like in the future. Be very clear. Do not equivocate or soften the words. Don't leave the door cracked a tiny bit if you mean to shut it. Write down the words.

Schedule a private meeting in a public place, something like a busy downtown park or lunch in a food court. Meet him there so that you each have your own transportation. If you want backup or are truly afraid of his reaction, you might go there with a friend who will hang back at a distance but leave you enough privacy to talk to him.

When you meet him just be direct. There's no way you are going to make this pleasant for him. No way. Just make it clear and direct. Give him a chance to respond and listen to what he says. But stick to the boundaries you planned, no matter how he negotiates or promises change. Repeat them firmly and gently as often as necessary. Respond with a phrase like "That sounds like a promising idea, but my mind is made up and this is what I truly need right now." Then shake hands and walk away.

It will be very important to stick to the boundaries you laid out if/when they are tested. Get with your friends often to reduce feelings of isolation and doubt. And do something nice for yourself, buy yourself a new outfit or try a new hobby. Do something to demarcate this new era in your life. Focus on the future and work to stamp out your co-dependent tendencies so your next love will be even better.
posted by cross_impact at 4:40 PM on July 15, 2010

Ok heres how to do it. This is some tough love. This is what I told myself before breaking up with anyone.

You think by not breaking up with him you are being kind ... but you aren't, you are actually being selfish and cruel. You've been stringing him along for months, not wanting to be with him but too concerned about your own comfort, too concerned with always being the nice person. He deserves to find someone who will be happy, ecstatic with him, and that person is not you.

Of course he is also selfish by not being affectionate and only changing when you threaten to break up. Do not listen to anything anyone says when you are breaking up with them. If they only want to make you happy when you threaten to break up with them its not a healthy place to be in.

Good luck.
posted by Admira at 4:43 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

with the limited facts laid out I would hazard a guess he does not love you per sey, but finds you easy to be with and is a better alternative than being alone. You, as well seem to be in the relationship because it worries you to be alone. You guys sounds like you might be decent friends, but horrible life partners.

It is ok to be alone for awhile, i know it kind of sucks emotion wise and sometimes it leads to desperation, but the alternative right now seems to be a lopsided relationship that you are beginning to resent.

I would never advise against counseling, but it does have limitations.
posted by edgeways at 5:06 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

The relationship is broken. You and him just don't mix. He doesn't provide you with the things that you need as a person to be a good boyfriend. You know you have to end it.

First, break up with him in your heart and in your mind. You're also breaking up with the part of you that still is wishing and hoping, the part that thinks he's your last chance at love. Tell yourself hasta la vista to that sinking ship. When you've broken up with him and the past inside of your mind, you'll be a new person. You'll be a new you. You're not "so-and-so's girlfriend" and you're not "the girl who was in the bad relationship." You can decide whoever you want to be. (I personally chose "cold-hearted badass bitch who looks out for number one, me." It helped in kicking the bastard out of my apartment.)

So before you sit down to break up with him, you're already a free single woman. You're simply there to let him know that "its over." You don't need his permission. You don't need any justification. You don't need to explain. You don't need to be 'nice' and listen to his excuses or promises because he's no longer a boyfriend.

Next, change your cell phone background picture, get to a spa and/or a haircut, do a little shopping, call up all your girlfriends/friends/family and tell them the news. Relish in yourself because you just did the best thing you can for yourself and that is opening yourself up to the rest of the world.

Like scody said "Go find some water."
posted by p1nkdaisy at 5:10 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder what is wrong with me that I just can't accept him as he is and be happy in this relationship without sex, without laughter, without conversation, without friendship.

That basically describes the relationship I have with the folks who make my coffee in the morning. Without sex, laughter, conversation and/or friendship you don't have an intimate relationship with this person. I think it's time to make it official and DTMFA.
posted by grapesaresour at 5:28 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

What I am about to say is not snark. It is a serious question.

Could he be using you as a beard without your permission?

Because how he is treating you doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:33 PM on July 15, 2010 [7 favorites]

How do you end the relationship? All this advice is nice, but it is really over-thinking.
Just do it.

Hop on the bus, gus.
just slip out the back, jack.
no need to be coy, roy.
posted by Flood at 6:02 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm right with the general sentiment in the comments above. I just wanted to add a small proviso that the only reason I'd entertain to pursue a different course of action (i.e. briefly trying counseling) would be if the change in his attitude and behavior six months ago coincided with some traumatic event or change in his health (or perhaps incident in your relationship) that has so far gone unaddressed. Otherwise DTMFA gently but firmly as discussed above.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:02 PM on July 15, 2010

In the wise words of Nike: Just Do It!
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:08 PM on July 15, 2010

Your guy sounds... odd. Like maybe he's a high-functioning autistic.

And if he is, and you're not a specialist, well, there's really nothing you can do to train him to be more like the communicative, responsive, sexual person you want to be with.

Or maybe he's queer and not ready to admit it yet? It's rare in my experience for healthy males to turn down teh secks, or to keep it to a frequency of 1.5 times per month, without a damn good reason. Like maybe he doesn't like girls, not really.

You're obviously unhappy, so I'll restate what's already been said: you have AskMeFi's permission to break up with your BF. Furthermore: his reaction to your breaking up with him is HIS OWN BUSINESS. It's not your job to protect him from the realities of the real world. It's not your job to stay in an empty, unsatisfying relationship with him just to spare him a bit of heartache.

Dump him, move on. It'll work out. Your guilt is useless to everybody, especially you.

Good luck!
posted by goblinbox at 6:13 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

So before you sit down to break up with him, you're already a free single woman. You're simply there to let him know that "its over." You don't need his permission. You don't need any justification. You don't need to explain. You don't need to be 'nice' and listen to his excuses or promises because he's no longer a boyfriend....You can decide whoever you want to be. (I personally chose "cold-hearted badass bitch who looks out for number one, me." It helped in kicking the bastard out of my apartment.)

You know, when men do this to women it's considered the height of churlishness. I don't think it's really any different the other way around, even if it isn't stereotyped the same way.

I would urge you not to break up with your already distressed boyfriend this way. I don't see it contributing to a calm winding down of the situation, given the previous attempt outlined in the OP. You may not "owe" him an explanation or justification, but you do owe him respect for his personhood. Not leaving someone completely bewildered may also make it easier for them to accept you're gone (see any number of other AskMes on that topic), and discourage them from hanging around. It's better to be nice to people who you've cared for and who presumably still care for you (being the dumpee) if you can. Not loving someone anymore isn't a license to exploit their now one-sided emotional vulnerability to you to make your own exit easier.

That's what I meant when I said dump him gently, but firmly.....
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:15 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

convincing myself that I'll be alone forever, that I'll never find anyone who loves me as much as this guy does

It seems as though a big part of the reason you stay with him (aside from guilt) is the idea that being alone would be worse.

It might make it easier for you if you came to terms with the idea that being alone is not worse than staying in a relationship you don't want to be in (for whatever solid reason - and you have a few, here).
posted by marimeko at 6:34 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

It seems to me like he'd actually prefer to just be friends with you. No more having to kiss or have sex or have long discussions about each others' days, just...whatever it is that you two currently do instead of relationship-y stuff.

(Which is what, exactly? He won't talk or laugh or kiss or love you do you even know he likes you? BREAK UP!)
posted by sallybrown at 6:39 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know what's more painful than breaking up with someone? Staying with them out of fear and realizing, years later, that you are absolutely, gut-wrenchingly miserable and despite your best efforts, nothing has changed.

Enough already. You've done your best, this guy isn't the one for you. He's not wonderful and he doesn't love you tremendously. I doubt counseling will make a difference and I suspect he suggested it to postpone the inevitable. It seems like your only options are to break up with him and feel bad, or stay with him and feel bad. But only one of those choices can lead to your being with someone who truly loves you.
posted by lucysparrow at 6:49 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

A quick addition to my earlier comment: oreofuchi and sallybrown have hit on a good point. How is this a "relationship" at all?

I don't mean this as a rhetorical question. Really, go ahead and answer this.

For instance, try to fill in the blanks: "You can tell that my boyfriend and I are in a relationship because we _______ and ________ and _______."

Someone who's in a relationship might say things like "kiss each other a lot" or "have sex" or "show a lot of tenderness and affection to each other." But it doesn't seem like any of those apply here.

What exactly is it that you do together that even counts as a relationship or qualifies him to have the status of "troublemenot's boyfriend"?
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:49 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know you have gotten lots of responses, and perhaps someone has already said this to you but I am too lazy to read all the replies so these are my two cents as someone who has been-there-and-god-it-was-hard-done-that.

I broke up with TMFA long after I should have. He was wonderful in lots of ways and horrible in lots of other ways but I loved him and I just didn't know how to walk away from it all. Ultimately I just told myself that I didn't have to keep feeling like crap when I was with him because dangit I deserved to be with someone who made me feel good! There's a lot to be said for being supported in the ways you need to be supported, and being shown affection in the ways you want affection to be shown. Hey, he might be a great guy but it is clear that he's not great for you. That sounds clichéd but it doesn't matter because it's true and hearing it helped me a lot -- so I hope it helps you too.

Once I told myself that I just committed to doing it, took a deep breath and did it IMMEDIATELY so as not to lose my resolve. Afterwards I spent the next two days dissolved into a puddle of sorrow at my best friend's place. That part sucked. Hard.

It was really difficult, it hurt, I cried (a lot) but time passed and it hurt less and less and less...

Now I'm in a relationship that is so wonderful don't even have words for it. That should give you hope, because it does get better -- so, so, so much better.
posted by blue_bicycle at 6:50 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

1. You've heard of states with "at-will" employment, wherein you can either quit or be fired for no particular reason at any time? Relationships are "at-will". Both parties participate because they want to do so, not because they owe the other party anything. Both parties ar entitled to leave at any point, for any reason, without being a "bad person" (provided they sever ties in a kind, responsible manner). Assuming you do the actual severing with some decency... hell, you can break up with someone because their unruly cowlick pisses you off - it's your life and it's your right.

2. That being said: oh my lord, laughter, closeness, communication, sex and friendship are the bricks and mortar of decent relationships. Everything else is just shoddy IKEA room ornamentation. What you have now doesn't sound like a home so much as a pile of polyester slipcovered and pine-scented candles with nothing to hold it up.

3. You deserve a love which feels like the coziest, safest, warmest place in the world. Don't settle for anything less. It's out there - but if you decide that you only deserve throw pillows and wall sconces, you'll never have a chance to find it.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:53 PM on July 15, 2010

You want practical advice? Here's some.

1. Find something that you want that is (a) extremely concrete, and (b) a total and complete dealbreaker. For example: I want to have warm and passionate sex at least once a week. Or, "when I smile at you and tell you a joke, I need you to smile back, pretty much every time, or else explain why you would turn down my request to be jokey such as, 'sorry, I have a headache and can't be playful now.'" This needs to be something that you could break up over and remind yourself about to head off any regret, something you can hang your breakup hat on: "he didn't even smile at my jokes," or "we never had sex," or "he didn't even hug me back," whatever.

2. Explain to him what you want. Explain how it makes you feel not to get it. Explain how wonderful you would feel if you were to get it. Say, "this is actually very important to me." Then listen to his thoughts on your request. Decide if a lack of change would still feel like a dealbreaker to you. (E.g., if he said, "I hate sex because I was molested," you might suddenly take a whole new view on things.) A change of opinion on whether it's a dealbreaker is unlikely to happen, but don't skip the step of revisiting your commitment to this need of yours.

3. Choose a deadline by which you need to see this happening, and decide if you want to share that information. I probably wouldn't. Create a little calendar for yourself with a few milestones: the shift has begun, the situation has halfway improved, he smiles bavk 9 times out of 10, etc. Indicate your hopes for when you would reach those milestones and also the very longest that you're willing to wait. Now, see if this can happen according to the calendar. Shoot for your hoped-for dates, but really keep your eye on the "latest acceptable," because what this really is is a contract with yourself and a timeline within which either this relationship is going to shift to work better for you, on that one issue, or else you're going to give up. You may be in this spot because you have an over-developed sense of your ability to change things, or a great deal of perserverance or patience, and the timeline here is about not letting that make you waste too much time. Give the situation your best shot, and then trust that this amount of time is enough so that you can say, "I couldn't wait any longer."

4. Check in regularly about this. When it doesn't happen, point that out. "Remember what we talked about last weekend? Well, I was really hoping that I would be seeing some difference in how often we are affectionate, but it does not seem like anything has changed." Become clearer that it's a dealbreaker for you. Say "I don't think a relationship without this will really work for me, and I need to feel like we're moving in the right direction to resolve this." You can't chicken out of this or "be nice." You know all that guilt you're afraid you're going to feel? Prevent it now by giving him very clear and fair warning. Because you have a contract with yourself, and a deadline, and this is legitimately a dealbreaker, and if you can't deliver on this positive change, that's it. So be consistent and communicate very clearly.

6. Well, no change? Time to break up. Make a plan based on whether you're living together or not. Be prepared to vacate and take time apart. Maybe tell your friends to be ready. Imagine being in a relationship where you got these things. Think about how much you deserve them and how unworkable it is for you not to be in a relationship that provides them. ("It's crazy! No hugs!?! I love hugs! I NEED hugs! What was I thinking to think this could work? I'm going to find a cuddly partner and be so happy one day.") Then deliver the news. You can use Miko's script or refer back to your "this won't work for me if..." conversations. Voilà, you're free!

One final note-- If you can do it without something this discrete, that's fine and faster. Trust your gut! But if you need some crutch, this system could work but only if you stick to it at every point when you'd rather forget you started it.
posted by salvia at 7:21 PM on July 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

Dump him over email.

Refuse to meet up with him again.

If it helps, have a friend sit there with you then, like, stay overnight so that you don't do anything foolish.

Yeah, I know email, but come ON. You need to have sex and kisses. NEED them. Do what you gotta do to get free.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:02 PM on July 15, 2010

I disagree with Salvia. The OP says she has already tried to talk with the guy about the things she doesn't like and it hasn't worked. In other words, the testing has already been done.

I say: you've only been together 10 months. Cut your losses. You may have talked about marriage, but what you're describing is in NO WAY how you would want to enter a marriage.

I'm also curious about how the guy is wonderful. I sort of get the sense that he's wonderful "on paper"--has qualities or characteristics that the OP would want if she were making a list of what she'd like to find in an idealized partner. Maybe how he looks? His career, his money, his resume, something? But the real-life living, breathing version in front of her is falling way short of what she'd hoped, in some very meaningful ways.

I should say, I feel for you, OP. I just got out of a relationship that I really, really wish could have worked, because I was just not getting what I needed from him emotionally. Hurt like hell and still does--but I know in my heart of hearts it was the right thing to do.

Be strong, make a clean break, don't look back. Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 8:08 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

He must be hella charismatic for you to think that there is something wrong with you. No sex, laughter, friendship, or conversation? That's a terrible relationship. Given that you tried to break up with him before via email and he talked you into staying together when you saw him again... Oh, hell, I can't believe I'm going to say this... Dump him via email. I agree with ifdssn9. Apologize for dumping him that way, since it's a such a shitty thing to do, but do it. Don't see him again. Try not to dump anyone via email again.
posted by studioaudience at 8:22 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I disagree with Salvia. The OP says she has already tried to talk with the guy about the things she doesn't like and it hasn't worked. In other words, the testing has already been done.

I agree with this. Another problem with Salvia's plan (clever though it is): you might start out feeling like you're going to apply some really strict standards whereby you can cleanly break up with him if he at all falls short ... but you might inadvertently open the door for him to tweak your standards so that you stay together. For instance, you tell him you have to have sex at least once a week. But he comes up with some reasonable qualification on that rule: not while you've been so busy with ____ or he's been out of town doing ____. Or he could flat-out guilt trip you into not being so rigid: "What's so terrible about going 7 days without sex if it happens on the 8th or 9th day?"

Basically, I could imagine Salvia's plan working brilliantly if you stick to your standards very rigidly. But would you have the willpower not to bend the rules so that you stay together? If not, then it'd be better to directly break up right now.

You've already given him one more chance after another and concluded that the relationship has to end. It's interesting to sit around thinking of ways you could prolong things while feeling like you're making progress. But the best way to make progress immediately is to break up.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:26 PM on July 15, 2010

I just had this exact situation, except my wife was the one acting like your boyfriend. We had been together for over a decade before she really began falling into most of those patterns. Months and months of counseling, etc, but nothing worked. Just got divorced a couple weeks ago (well, filed for).

If you're seeing this less than a year into the relationship, end it. It's not likely to get better once it's this far gone, and you don't have the kind of history that would (to me) justify spending more months working on a relationship he doesn't seem interested in saving.

Even if it was just the physical affection, I'd vote for breaking up. Trust me, the lack of that gets worse the longer it goes on. And it's arguably worse when you're in a relationship and not getting it -- that kills your self-esteem much more than being alone and not getting affection would (if even your _spouse_ or _boyfriend/girlfriend_ doesn't find you attractive, why would anyone? feelings like that).
posted by wildcrdj at 8:57 PM on July 15, 2010

How do you DTMFA? You just do it. You say, "I want to break up with you" and you deal with it.

If I were in your shoes, I'd say something a la Miko's wording, and add in: "I'm not happy in this relationship. I'm not getting what I need, we've tried, everything's the same again. I don't want to try counselling." Practicalities: I agree on doing this in a public place. And make sure you have something to go to afterwards - I'd suggest meeting a friend at a certain time to talk about the breakup - so you have a good reason for getting up and leaving and preventing this from being long and drawn out. Honestly, this should take about 15-30 minutes to say what you gotta say. He may have questions like, "why," and you have very concrete reasons. He'll probably say he'll try harder, want to go to counselling, but there really is nothing more to discuss. You've already tried to improve things. You don't want to go to counselling. There is no negotiation around breaking up. In your previous break up, he talked you into getting together again, you agreed. Now it's your turn to say, I want to end this relationship, and he has to agree.

It might happen that he'll call you within the next few days to try to change your mind - after all, you've done it before so that shows him it works. You have to stay really strong and stick to your guns - the answer is no. Practice saying that. You know you don't want to be with him - that's all that matters. Doesn't matter if he has all these wonderful qualities, or that you think you'll never find anyone else (which is SO untrue), you know you don't want to be with him. And ask, no tell, him not to contact you. Yes, that sucks, but there's no point in him contacting you because your answer will be the same - no. Just rip the bandaid off. If he still contacts you after you ask him not to, don't respond. The way to stop talking to someone is to just stop talking to them. If you say to him, "stop calling me" - you're talking to him. So just don't respond.

And then, get busy. See your friends, exercise, write, do sports, whatever. If you feel sad, you can feel sad. But ultimately, you have a life to live. Go and live it - without him.

You can do it. Let us know how it goes!
posted by foxjacket at 9:01 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Going from what you said, he is not an extremely wonderful guy and he does not love you tremendously. You said nothing about what might actually make your relationship good. It sounds like a terrible relationship. To me, the whole point of even being in a romantic relationship with someone is so you can do all that stuff with him/her on a level you just don't get with anyone else, and that is all the stuff you said that he doesn't seem willing to share with you. In what way is this guy even your boyfriend?

It's only been 10 months. If things are already this bad, and you're already completely miserable with the guy and you've already broken up with him once.. Let it go. Being single is better than being in a relationship that doesn't make you happy and stresses you out as much as this one does. And, while I'm not psychic, I'm pretty sure there are guys out there who would treat you better than he does.

But if you do break up with him, don't go trying to get with someone else immediately. Give yourself time to find yourself again and do stuff on your own that you enjoy. Then, once you feel comfortable with yourself, you can feel comfortable with somebody else and hopefully be rid of some of the baggage from this draining and unrewarding relationship.
posted by wondermouse at 9:12 PM on July 15, 2010

I agree with the people disagreeing with me. How about this revised version: find something that recently, already happened that is a dealbreaker?

Here is my other time-tested approach. Get really clear on what you want, and then start to imagine a relationship that includes it. Imagine your "other boyfriend" is out there somewhere, maybe on his way to pick you up. Set that aside and now focus on how much it sucks to be in this loveless, affection-less relationship. Wouldn't even being alone be nicer? Every time he does something that makes you feel bad, focus in on all the ways it's bad, and then imagine if you weren't dating him (you'd have the entire couch to yourself, or actually you'd probably be out to dinner with a friend right now!). As you fill your head with positive visions of being alone and with imaginings of your eventual great new relationship, your ties to him will loosen.
posted by salvia at 12:33 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

For all this guy's wonderful qualities, does he really love you? If your guilt is based on the fact that you'd be hurting someone who's obviously so loving, are you sure he does?

All I know is that when I've been head over heels for someone and they indicated they didn't want to be with me, I wasn't angry. I didn't guilt trip them. I didn't bargain with them or argue with them. I didn't make it difficult for them to break up with me and harass them endlessly. I just thought I was lucky to have the time that I did with them and wanted them to be happy. Even if that meant they would be with someone else. I mean, yes, it hurt like hell, but I didn't blame them for that.

So does this guy really love you on that level? Do you think he wants you to be happy even more than he wants his own happiness?
posted by Nixy at 12:46 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Guy wants marriage and kids to feel
Normal. You're his ticket to that. He's not willing to change. Even my guy, who is headstrong and stubborn as they come, has been willing to change. Don't marry him.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:00 AM on July 16, 2010

It it's this bad at ten months, just imagine how it will be in 5 years. This is supposed to be the good part. You don't need to state a reason, just get free.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:05 AM on July 16, 2010

If it's this bad....
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:06 AM on July 16, 2010

Remember kissing? Remember deep passionate kissing, underscored with an urgent "I can't wait to tear your clothes off" feeling? Remember the softness of lips, the scratchy beard that feels so alive on your face, the warm wet tongue probing and seeking and dancing with yours? Remember how something as simple as a kiss can leave you weak in the knees, out of breath and kind of reeling?

Remember how COMPLETELY FUCKING AWESOME kissing can be?

Don't you want to have that again?

This post dedicated to PB, who will likely never see it, but who reminded me how awesome kissing is after I got out of kiss-free disaster of a relationship. Um, not the pb the mod, just someone who shares his initials.
posted by mollymayhem at 1:19 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

ISTM if you stay with this guy you're guaranteed to die alone.

Not only in the sense that you're already alone, but also in the sense that I can't see this guy bestirring himself to rush to your side if he got a phone call from the hospital. At best he would probably be just too... sensitive... to respond.

So you might as well go, really. It's six of one and half a dozen of the other.
posted by tel3path at 6:17 AM on July 16, 2010

Your wording makes it sound like you're afraid to break up with him... why? Does he seem depressed? Why is his happiness so much more important than yours?

Your description of your boyfriend makes me wonder how the hell you fell in love with him in the first place. You're staggering along on a memory of 3 or 4 days of happiness? Why?

If you're worried he is depressed and breaking up with him will cause him to spiral down, well... I've been there. And he might. But you're NOT. RESPONSIBLE for his actions post-breakup.

If you initiated the last breakup via email, that tells me you're afraid of how he might react - whether for him, or for yourself - and you need to realize you're NOT RESPONSIBLE for his happiness or reaction to the split if he's NOT RESPONSIBLE for being a good boyfriend to you.

Why settle for 10 percent happiness when you know, damn well, that with time and patience, you can have so much more? The only thing you need to get over this "nobody will ever love me again" mentality is to tell yourself every day that you WILL fall in love again because you're awesome.

Believe it, and it'll happen. This negative self-talk is your defense mechanism to avoid fear of the unknown, aka being alone and losing this "friend" (boyfriend is the wrong word - he's manipulating you). Meanwhile, you are wasting time that you could be using to make yourself happy or meeting the perfect guy for you by paying attention to this other dude.

Seriously, though. Don't waste your time or your life this way -- it's too short to go without kisses, orgasms, a secret language with your beloved, and a thousand happy memories.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:40 AM on July 16, 2010

Think about staying with him...think about what your life will be like in 10 a cold, loveless, depressing marriage. And now you've got kids with a man you don't really love. You see friends and neighbors happy and laughing and loving, and then go back to your house and are trapped there with him.....really imagine it. Get good and nauseated. Then do it. (Worked for me anyway. The only think scarier than dumping him was the above scenario.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:10 AM on July 16, 2010

It is not too much to ask for passionate kisses, open communication, and consideration of both your needs and desires.

It's hard to leave someone you've seen as a partner, especially when they say they want to spend the rest of your lives together. But what he says is at odds with his behaviour and you deserve a chance to find someone who is compatible with you, respects you, and is willing to put in the work a successful long term relationship requires.

He also deserves a chance for someone who's a better match for him: you're not it.
posted by thatdawnperson at 11:14 AM on July 16, 2010

Oh, wow. It's been said above, but I'll add my story, not because it echoes yours, but just to support that you actually have already done the hard part in making such a difficult decision. It's the doing you need support for. You will not only need it, but likely find that you have it.

You are never going to be ready. It's not going to go well. He will fight (likely) and you will have to stand ground you might FEEL but don't have a concrete argument for. That doesn't matter. You KNOW. Just stop letting his arguments work in your mind. How?

She was a funny, smart, sexy and sadly deeply damaged person. I fought so hard...for two years to get to the person I knew (thought?) was there. She fought along side for us a little bit of the way (went to therapy but would always say "we didn't talk about us...we're a different...(aka not priority)" but she could never say what we were a different...eay for her? maybe. In the long run, even in the good times, the damage was too deep and I just could not be the brunt of it anymore.

We were on the front porch, usual morning coffee, I had wanted to tell her it was time to move out for months and it was so hard, she was messed up, promised she was trying, no more X_X_X_X....oh, no details are gonna get shared here. You get it.

The point is, this morning coffee, the sun shining, day off...torture. I know you can't love me. You've tried. You aren't a bad person, but you are so messed up. And I'm not your mom. I'm gonna have to do this someday. How am I ever going to leave you after everything we have been through and our friends and our community and familys and...oh it's just going to be...I'll do it another day. Let's just enjoy our coffee.

And then she actually gave me the out. I feel lucky. Because in one fell swoop she mentioned something to me like it was her idea that I had been asking about for two years. It was actually not a small thing, and she was finally actually for it, but she made it feel like I was invisible, like it was a brilliant plan that just hit her. (it was actually a really common conversation we had had, and i just couldn't believe she was negating ALL of me AGAIN). My brains just exploded. I was finishing that cup of coffee, and I had had no intention of doing this but I just turned to her and said..."I can't do this anymore. I'm sorry. I think I've tried hard enough. You are going to have to move out."

Honestly, it was awful. Friends got involved, helped us both out (people are actually really amazingly understanding and good thankfully)...but it was awful.

But three important things I want to tell you.

1) You only get one life. Seriously. Just one. And every year goes by faster than the last. Every second you should be making sure that your sanity, safety, happiness and whatever else are met. You just should.

2) You are responsible for the safety of your feelings. You get to decide that you want to be happy. Relationships are partnerships...not parenting or therapy or whatever damn thing is making it obvious that you can't stay in this thing and be happy. You might not know what you need, but that doesn't mean you need this.

3) Being alone, if that's something that scares you (it did me) gets easier and better all the time. Being alone means you make yourself happy. Being alone is a great place to start.

I wish you the best.
posted by metasav at 1:44 AM on July 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, AskMefi. I broke up with him. It was difficult, and is still difficult, but it's slowly getting easier. And I don't wake up with a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach anymore.

I found a nice therapist. I'm trying to change little things about my life that have not been working for me for a little while. I'm listening to some new music, and I got a new haircut. I'm riding my bike more. I'm opening up my windows at night and enjoying how the air feels. I'm alone, and it's not horrible. It's different, sometimes jarringly different, sometimes it's pretty uncomfortable, but I think I'd rather live with the occasional discomfort of being alone than the low-level constant anxiety of not living in a way that is true to my real self. I knew that relationship wasn't working. I sometimes didn't have words for why it wasn't working, but I knew.

posted by troublemenot at 7:55 AM on September 3, 2010 [8 favorites]

« Older What have you done with my Volumes?   |   How can I Implement Revenue Sharing on a Wordpress... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.