I don't know how to break up.
August 26, 2010 9:17 AM   Subscribe

There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but I can't handle any of them. Deep down I know I need to end my relationship, but I don't know how to do it.

I've been with my boyfriend for almost five years. When we first got together we were both kind of emotional messes, and were dealing with a lot of baggage. At the time, I had so many issues that I didn't see myself ever being okay enough to have a stable life and kids. Now I'm much healthier, because of the relationship in a lot of ways, and have decided that I DO want to have kids. Unfortunately, my boyfriend has said that he's not sure he wants kids, and doesn't know when he'll be able to say one way or the other. I'm in my mid-thirties, and biology being what it is, I feel like I need to make a decision now. I love him, but there are also other issues in the relationship that aren't deal breakers, but that if I had to do it over again, I might want someone with qualities he doesn't have. The problem is, I've tried to break up with him before, and have never been able to do it. There are circumstances coming up that I think might make it easier - he's starting a job where he'll be gone for days at a time, and then home when I'm gone, and I think that will make it easier for us to get used to time apart. The problem is that in the past whenever I felt that I wanted to end things, I remember all the things I love about him. The thing is that I think I would be doing myself a disservice by giving up the possibility of marriage and kids to stay with him. He may decide he wants that, but after five years, I don't know how much longer I can wait.

Is it realistic to put off a break up until I feel more ready? In the past I've always backed out when it came to the actually leaving part, and I don't think I'm ready for that yet. Are there things I can do to prepare myself to do it, and to remind myself why I feel I need to so that when the time comes I can do it? Has anyone else ever been in this situation?
posted by secretsquirrel to Human Relations (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you two really need to have a serious discussion about the kids thing. It's one of the major dealbreakers, and of you really want to have kids and he really doesn't, you'll end up resenting him later, if you don't already, and that's poison for a relationship.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:22 AM on August 26, 2010

Tell him everything you're thinking and feeling about all of these issues, speak clearly and honestly from your heart and about your feelings. Ask directly for what you want from him and from the relationship, but be prepared to accept 'no' if that's the answer he gives you.

Don't 'put off' a break-up - start having the conversations about your wants/needs and his wants/needs and do it assertively - don't demand or be passive (expect without communicating). If you start this conversation and you two work together on this, you can decide to end or continue the relationship together - and you can grieve the ending of the relationship together.

Ending a relationship should never be a bomb you drop on an unsuspecting partner, if that's what it's like then you've skipped a huge step. Nor should it be a 'terrible thing you don't want to do but have to' - it should be a decision you come to together, and one you follow through with in order to respect what you want and your boundaries.
posted by jardinier at 9:25 AM on August 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

There are other possibilities as well. For example, even if you never become a biological mother, you can still be an adoptive mother. However, if that's not what you want, then you do have to get a definite answer from your boyfriend. If he refuses to make a decision, despite your explanation that you need to have a decision because your time is running out, then he is actually telling you that he doesn't want to have kids. So, you will have to act accordingly.
posted by grizzled at 9:43 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's important to note that you've resisted breaking up with him because you "remember all the things you love about him".

It could be that that this is more "remembering" the image of him which you've held onto from the earlier days, which may no longer be quite accurate, for instance, you once thought he might come round to the idea of having kids, now not so much.

The discussion is what I think you need in order to move on from this. Telling him straight that the kids issue is a dealbreaker for you, and hearing him respond that he still does not see it happening for him - that's the first line of your swan song right there, sadly.

I wish you luck with it, and remember that you can find the things that you need to be happy in life with or without his help.
posted by greenish at 9:45 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think just about everybody has had times in their relationship where they wonder if it is the right one and whether they should leave. So you are far from alone.

I think you are unsure about more than how to break up. So you may want to sort out these issues and think about each separately:

1. Do you love this man? It sounds as though you do, but I agree with greenish that it isn't perfectly clear. No one, of course, is going to have every quality you'd like in a mate, so the question isn't really whether you could find someone "better" but whether you feel a strong and current attachment to this man. If not, then you should break up, and sooner rather than later given your desire to have children.

2. By when do you want to have children? I ask because not only do I agree with others on this thread that this is a serious issue that you need to talk out with your boyfriend, but also I think you may want to think about setting a time by which you need him to make a decision. I.e., if you are clear in your own mind about when you want to start a family, you can be realistic and fair with your boyfriend about your need to have him make a decision in a reasonable amount of time about his preferences.

3. If this relationship needs to end, either because you don't love your boyfriend as you did, or because he and you are on different tracks about having a family together, then think about how to do it. Most long term relationships tend to end more slowly than abruptly, but of course the way to start a breakup is to talk about it face to face with your boyfriend, including some planning about when and how, depending on how entangled your lives are.

Good luck with this.
posted by bearwife at 10:19 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You'll never really be ready to leave. It is a terrible, nausea-inducing thing to have to do no matter how certain you are about it.

You sound pretty lukewarm about him. When you remember all the things you love about him, what are those things? Do they mostly have to do with the fact that you helped each other deal with and grow through some troubled times? That was the case for me when trying to decide whether to leave my ex-husband. But it's okay to leave a relationship that's mostly positive if your goals don't align, or if you simply feel that the person isn't right for you. Sometimes a person can be right for you at one point in your life and not-so-right at another point.
posted by spinto at 10:48 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

At the end of the day, the kids thing is the dealbreaker for you. If you don't make a stand, there will be no progress. So take a day or so to mentally prepare yourself, and then... sit him down and say that you love him very much, you think he's a wonderful person who you'd be happy to spend the rest of your life with, but if he isn't ready to move things forward and try for kids with you within the next year (?), then you can't be together anymore and you're leaving him.

Give him a week to think about it, and plan to meet (next Saturday at 7 pm?) to hear his answer. If you live with him, go stay with someone else for a week and let him see what it's like being without you. He needs to know you're serious, and that he's not allowed to slack off and not think about it. Crappy to give an ultimatum, but otherwise he's really not forced to consider the idea as a reality.

I left my boyfriend last year because among other things, he was not interested in having kids and I want them. After I broke up with him he'd given some long, hard thought to the idea and he told me if I would take him back, he was ready to start a family. The idea scared him a lot, but he realized that it would be a team effort, us together. Well to be honest that almost made me reconsider, but there were other things at play that made me stick to my guns and not take him back. Wish it hadn't taken breaking up to make him wake up, but that's life.
posted by lizbunny at 11:25 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you should leave and find a man who wants children - even if this guy agrees to it, he will probably resent you for pushing it on him (before he was ready or at all), the kids, and himself for giving in.

It really sucks to have a parent that didn't really want you, and having another that desperately tries to make that up to you.

Breaking up is always hard - be sure to tell him that he is wonderful match for someone else, just not for you.
posted by meepmeow at 11:32 AM on August 26, 2010

So, it sounds like you've been waiting for a specific, concrete reason to break up with him. Well, you wanting kids and him not wanting kids is just that sort of reason, and a great way to break up with someone without too much animosity is to have it be over some fundamental incompatibility like this.

However, he might say "well, I've been thinking about it, and I do want kids." He might actually mean it, too. Think about that, and then decide: if he says that, will I be happy because the deal-breaker is gone, or disappointed because the deal-breaker is gone? If the latter, then you know what you have to do, and you might as well get it over with.
posted by davejay at 12:52 PM on August 26, 2010

I suppose you should leave your boyfriend and try to meet older men (men in their forties and fifties) who are financially established and want to have kids. I get the sense that quite a number of men are sort of wishy washy these days about commitment and having children, so, if I were dead set on having kids, I would I would establish a time table and criteria and date as much as possible within my target criteria. I would also re-examine the possibility of finding what you're looking for and see what would happen if you didn't meet someone who you'd want to marry and have kids with or if you met someone you didn't love immediately but would make a pretty suitable partner.
posted by anniecat at 2:04 PM on August 26, 2010

Deep down I know I need to end my relationship, but I don't know how to do it.

I'd recommend reading How to Dump a Guy: A Coward's Manual.
posted by russilwvong at 9:15 PM on August 26, 2010

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