How do I help the ex that I still love?
December 21, 2010 8:03 AM   Subscribe

She left me and now she wants moral and financial support. What to do?

We were together for 5 years. It was difficult for almost all of it. I still love her more than anyone in the world but I have finally come to terms with the fact that we were a bad combination. We were best friends but fought too much and wanted to change each other too much.

We were poor for much of the time and I was always the one to scrounge up an extra freelance gig, borrow from my folks or cash out some retirement savings. I also dealt with anything bureaucratic or technical. She was rarely employed, although, admittedly for a few years that was largely due to visa problems. It turned into my cross to bear and it made me grumpy and snippy sometimes. It also made supporting her seem like the meaning of my life.

She's 30 and she still has real issues with taking responsibility for anything: moral, financial, social. It was a real slog convincing and cajoling her to see that she was the only one who could find her own happiness (not me).

In the summer I convinced her to start seeing a therapist (and I cobbled together the cash to pay for it). Through her therapy she finally decided that she needed to be more independent and feel like she had her own sense of agency and purpose in her life. She concluded that the most important step was to leave me (rather abruptly) and strike out on her own.

It took me two months of grieving to finally conclude that the relationship was indeed a bad one and that I was grateful to her for having ended it. Still not quite ready to date but I'm feeling good and keeping busy for the most part. I have also avoided any contact with her because I end up feeling rejected and belittled.

Tonight she called me crying after several weeks of silence. She was really torn up about being fired from one job after two days, getting turned down for another and generally feeling abandoned by her friends. So I ran over, took her out for a beer and let her cry on my shoulder. She has lost a lot of weight and she told me it's because she can't afford to eat! So, I took her for a curry and she started feeling better. She then told me that she needs me as a friend and that she needs money. She even went so far as to say that I am obligated to support her since she'd moved so far to be with me.

I don't make much so I only have a little left at the end of most months, not to mention I'm stuck with the apt and bills.

I feel used but I want to help her. I know she's in a tough place since she's just getting started working as a freelance journalist and her family is on the poster for consumer credit disasters, so they are no help. It's just that every time I interact with her, I feel like crap for two days. She seems to think that her troubles trump any emotional pain I feel. It also does not help to know that she has been dating and I am still feeling a bit too tender to go out and get laid.

I'm freaked out by her starving herself and generally feeling down. How can I help her without feeling like toad while I keep moving on?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
She's 30 years old. An adult. She left you. She's an adult. You owe her nothing else at this point. She's an adult.
posted by HeyAllie at 8:07 AM on December 21, 2010 [45 favorites]

You need to stop interacting with her.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:07 AM on December 21, 2010 [21 favorites]

You can't help her. She has to help herself. Repeat: You. Can't. Help. Her.
posted by Melismata at 8:07 AM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

I feel used

You should.

How can I help her without feeling like toad while I keep moving on?

The best way to help her is to avoid being a crutch. She needs to get her shit together. It sounds like you're doing OK other than the pain of the recent break-up; don't let her fuck up anything else for you. You say you tried to avoid her completely. This was a good instinct. You need to complete it and stop answering her calls and other correspondence.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:07 AM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

The best way to help her (and yourself) is by saying no.
posted by Memo at 8:08 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think you can. From what you've described, your choice is either to feel used (support her in her dysfunctional life) or to move on and let her get on with it.
posted by OmieWise at 8:08 AM on December 21, 2010

She even went so far as to say that I am obligated to support her since she'd moved so far to be with me.

This is not true. She's an adult, no? She made choices.

I feel used but I want to help her.

You're being used. It's natural to want to help, but she's not your responsibility anymore (and never should have been, really.) You have done far, far more than anyone could reasonably expect.

Provide her with a list of charities and government agencies that will feed her and provide her with job coaching, and cut off contact with her.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:11 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

So basically she wants to have all of the perks of a relationship with you without being in a relationship with you? You say she left because she needed to spread her wings and strike out on her own- well you helping her, morally and financially, will not allow her to do this.

It will be hard, but cut communication with her. You don't sound like you are in the best place right now, and adding more of her drama isn't going to help you get back to being mentally and emotionally healthy. Do what you need to do to get better and let her work her own stuff out.
posted by TheBones at 8:11 AM on December 21, 2010 [8 favorites]

When things get bad enough for her, and stay that way, then (and only then) she will begin to form a more realistic impression of her options. If you love her you will make room for this to happen instead of limping along beside her and nursing her feeling of entitlement.

Protect yourself. She is not your responsibility. What she's doing is emotional blackmail, and you're not helping her by teaching her that she can get money and support from people that way.
posted by hermitosis at 8:11 AM on December 21, 2010 [12 favorites]

She'll drop you once she finds someone or something else. Beat her to the punch. Don't talk to her anymore.
posted by milarepa at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

She's clearly a parasite. Cut her off NOW.
posted by dbiedny at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know your question is "how do I help my ex?", but in all honesty, the answer is that you shouldn't. She's a drain on you emotionally and will be one financially if you go along with this. And that drain will continue until she finds another, 'better' relationship, and you will be left at the end of it feeling even worse. Don't do this to yourself. As above -- she's 30, she's an adult, she's not your responsibility.
posted by modernnomad at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

If the sexes were reversed, that person would be called a manipulative low-life bum. You put in your time, and you owe her nothing more.
posted by eas98 at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

She's dating. If you start supporting and helping her now, what is going to happen to you when she finds a boyfriend? Are you okay with that?

You are not obligated to continue a relationship with her where she reciprocates none of the support that you provide her. She might appreciate your kindness, but she will also probably drop you once she doesn't need you anymore. And the whole thing sounds damaging for you as you're trying to move on.
posted by Polychrome at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also: something I learned the hard way is that being a freelance writer/journalist might be hard work, but it is also a sort of indulgence. It is not a form of work that one should rely on if one doesn't have other resources. Even the taxes from being self-employed are forbidding. Writing as a career is an indulgence. If she can't hack it doing what she's doing, then like I said a moment ago, she needs to survey her options more realistically and maybe get a part-time job. Or a full-time job. Doing ANYTHING. If she's not willing to try, then she's not taking her own hardship very seriously.
posted by hermitosis at 8:15 AM on December 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

She even went so far as to say that I am obligated to support her ...

Ack! No. You'll help her strike out on her own by just letting her do so under her own power. Guilt trips by someone who dumped you? Change your phone number.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:18 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tonight she called me crying after several weeks of silence... So I ran over, took her out for a beer and let her cry on my shoulder. She has lost a lot of weight and she told me it's because she can't afford to eat! So, I took her for a curry and she started feeling better. She then told me that she needs me as a friend and that she needs money. She even went so far as to say that I am obligated to support her since she'd moved so far to be with me.

You are being emotionally manipulated, which no one deserves.

The best thing you can do for your ex's long-term health is to say no to her, and move on. She spent five years figuring out how to make you take care of her... only, now that she's cut that cord, it's not all roses and puppies and idyllic "single girl on her own" scenes from a movie.

Being a self-sufficient grown-up is hard work. She has to learn how to take care of herself and accept responsibility at some point... and the longer you keep propping her up, the more you prevent her from figuring that out.

I'll repeat what others have said because it bears repeating: the best way you can help her ex is to cut all ties and move on with your life. You need to take care of you, and she needs to grow up.
posted by pineapple at 8:18 AM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you're concerned she's too poor to buy food, why not give her the number of a local food bank? Giving her money to buy food doesn't really solve the problem, unless you're planning on supporting her indefinitely; giving her a nudge in the direction of resources she can use to help herself seems kind but also doesn't leave you feeling taken advantage of.

She might have moved out here to be with you, but she made the choice every day to stay in your country. Even now she's making the choice to stay where she is rather than scrape up the money to go home; if she was begging you for some cash to buy a plane ticket back to her country of origin, I might be inclined to argue that you should help out, but giving her money for living expenses? That's clearly not on you at all.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:19 AM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

You can't help her. Get on with your life already. You barely have enough money for yourself and you're worried about someone one who won't support themselves; who wonʻt buckle down long enough to hold a job? Come on! If you just have to do one last thing for her and you can't resist, offer to buy a one way ticket home where there are people who have more of an obligation to her well being than you do at this point. Stop being a sucker and find someone whoʻs willing to meet you half way and hasnʻt completely abdicated all adult responsibility. You can do it!
posted by elle.jeezy at 8:19 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ugh. Do not speak to again.
posted by yarly at 8:20 AM on December 21, 2010

By providing support now you are not helping her reach the independence that you know that she needs to achieve. If you want that for her, and she really wants that for herself, you should resume moving on.
posted by Verdant at 8:20 AM on December 21, 2010

Also, you mentioned that she had visa she from another culture where the man is expected to support the woman? And she got fired after only two days...that's pretty hard to do, unless you're a colossal screwup. Perhaps she should talk to a culture-sensitive therapist, which could help her see that things are done differently here.

But yeah, definitely cut off contact. She'll continue to suck the life out of you, but only if you let her. As Ann Landers always said, nobody can take advantage of you without your permission.
posted by Melismata at 8:22 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I were a betting woman, I'd say she's actually losing the weight to be more attractive in the dating pool, since she needs to snag another sucker.

You've escaped from a terrible relationship. Be glad, and don't look back.
posted by Scram at 8:24 AM on December 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

i know it's hard to see someone like that, and I understand you wanting to help her. I would absolutely NOT give her ANY money. If you really want to help her, you could help her by directing her towards resources for finding a job. But if you must help her it should be in ways that contribute to her being more independent, not prevent her from it. This also means limiting your contact and helping. Although a lot of people will say cut off communication 100% this is hard. If you must, be helpful in a low-key, platonic way and then wean off contact once she starts to figure it out. If she doesn't figure it out pretty quickly, move on. Do not let her rely on you for emotional support, that's not your job anymore.

Good luck. I've been going through a similar situation recently so I know how it sucks to have the love and the means to help someone who can't help themselves- but also knowing that ultimately, you aren't REALLY helping them. oh and by the way, i wouldn't worry about her starving herself. Personally, when I went through my breakup I lost about 10lbs as well just because the stress, sadness and grief took away my appetite. But it came back after 2-3 weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if she lost some weight for the same reason . . . but then tried to spin it into a situation where you're feeling sorry for her. And it's not like the choice is either you feed her, or she dies. If you don't help her she'll find another source of help. She may want to manipulate you and make you feel sorry for her, but I'm willing to bet she doesn't actually want to starve.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:24 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to chime in...she's using you. It's hard not to feel obligated to help someone, but you have helped her so much already. I have been in that position with a friend and really, the best thing you can for both of you is to cut her off. Try to unhook yourself emotionally from her. It's hard, but there will come a day when you can step back and not feel guilty.

If you are feeling guilty and are still grieving, it might be false guilt. Ask yourself these questions:

1) Am I being greedy or selfish?
2) Am I purposely trying to hurt her (by cutting her off or not helping her)
3) Was I being intentionally cruel or malicious?

Chances are, the answers to all these questions for you are no, so go forward and live the best life you can for yourself. You can only be responsible so much for other people. I mean that sincerely and I hope you feel better about this down the road.
posted by Calzephyr at 8:26 AM on December 21, 2010

You paid for her therapy. It worked! Now she is free and got what she wants. If regrets, let her sue her therapist!
go forth and get a life that gives you happiness.
posted by Postroad at 8:27 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honestly, you should give her a list of services that help those in her situation and then tell her to get the fuck out of your life.

Then block her number on your cellphone.
posted by nomadicink at 8:34 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hate to be the lone voice here, but you need to work out what's going to happen to her if you don't provide any support. Write it down. "This is what could happen to her. This is an estimated percentage that the thing will happen to her. "

And then you need to work out if you could deal with those consequences.

You also need to find out what her current support network is. Does she have good friends close by.

I agree that you don't owe her anything, but I think I'd feel I should continue to support her for a time if she runs a chance of ending up homeless or in a very bad situation. Needless to say, continuing any support will suck for you, and it'll make your own recovery slower and more painful.
posted by seanyboy at 8:44 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are organizations out there dedicated to feeding the hungry. When all is said and done, being human means survival, and survival means (among other things) eating. When she's really hungry, her survival instinct will lead her to a source of food. Don't let it be you--there are other options out there. You need to focus on yourself, not on her.
posted by litnerd at 8:45 AM on December 21, 2010

She will never learn to be independent if she is not forced to be, it appears.

She is 30 years old. She can get a job. Even if it's a job that sucks; if she's really hungry and not just pulling your leg, she'll suck it up and do what needs to be done.

She is not your responsibility. She will leave you the second something better comes along. She's just playing the victim. Do what other people have suggested and direct her to a food bank, or employment help

....and be prepared for her to pull out every trick in the book to try and wear you down when you deny her her easy escape from a situation she got HERSELF into. She will be desperate and cry, and lay blame, and flirt, and try whatever worked for her in the past. She might even talk about how breaking up was a mistake. About how (if you help her, of course) she might think about getting back together. She has already tried to blame you for her situation.
posted by Windigo at 8:47 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are acting as an enabler for her unhealthy and self-destructive choices, and she is taking advantage of it. You are not betraying her by refusing to enable her any longer, you are helping her by making her stand on her own two feet, and it does not make you a bad person to believe this.
posted by 4ster at 8:48 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I realize that the job market is tough right now, but if she has a college degree and a "sense of agency and purpose in her life" she can find something. That something is not going to be freelance journalism. If she's not making enough money to buy groceries, she needs the name of a temp agency, not cash. Stop enabling her.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:49 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

She is trying to screw you over. Again, for emphasis: she is trying to screw you over.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:50 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some people take the path of least resistance every time, and you look like a very easy path to take. She's an adult who has to be responsible for herself, something she never will be if you continue to support her. Cut it off, not only for your own well-being, but also for hers.
posted by xingcat at 8:56 AM on December 21, 2010

Cut her off. It is the only good thing that you can possibly do for both of you.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:10 AM on December 21, 2010

This is another vote for giving her a few numbers/contacts of services that could help her, and then cutting off ties. She is using you, but it might give yourself peace of mind knowing that there are organizations she can go to if things truly get bad. If you help her now, is there really an end in sight? It's not like this is a temporary unemployment or a rough patch. She's always been like this and you've been supporting her for years. She's not going to change if you two keep doing the same things, so if you start helping her now, be prepared to support her forever (or until she finds another sucker), or to have to cut it off yourself down the line, which will be harder than doing it now. She's an adult and not your responsibility.
posted by lacedcoffee at 9:19 AM on December 21, 2010

I would suggest that you take the money you're considering giving her and GIVE IT to a food bank.

Many of the charities meant to feed hungry people are struggling these days. While I agree that this particular person may not be your particular responsibility, I'd just like to remind everyone that food banks aren't supplied by magical elves. If you depend on them as a resource -- even just as a way to ease your conscience about a parasitical ex -- then you're also responsible for supporting them.
posted by endless_forms at 9:20 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

OK, I am really not proud of this, but I was once her. I broke up with this guy who definitely loved me, but I wanted him to still be my best friend, put me first, help me with all my problems, listen to me vent, etc. etc. etc. I was so angry when he pushed me away and refused to be my primary emotional support! I was devastated and I called him repeatedly and wept and begged him to please be my friend. I felt betrayed and awful and thought he was being terrible.

Years later, thank god that happened. I was way too dependent on him. I am happier than I have ever been in my life, and that happiness is more stable because it comes from me taking care of me, me giving myself approval and support, me being comfortable with myself.

I am really ashamed of how I treated my ex. It was selfish and hurtful and unfair. I was completely wrong. I am very lucky that he resisted my inappropriate attempts to make him my platonic husband and feed off his love for me like a fucking vampire.

Please cut this woman off. It's not just unquestionably what's best for you. It's also the best thing you can do for her.

No contact!
posted by prefpara at 9:25 AM on December 21, 2010 [13 favorites]

How can I help her without feeling like toad while I keep moving on?

You can't. End all contact with her. All contact.
posted by spaltavian at 9:26 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

A lot of you guys aren't answering the question.

If you want to help, the thing to do is to help while drawing boundaries that make you feel comfortable. Help in certain ways but not others. Whatever you feel comfortable with.

Drawing boundaries does NOT mean forcing a power dynamic on her. What it does mean is helping in a way that you feel comfortable - so you hurt less.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:34 AM on December 21, 2010

She's a bum. Be glad you're no longer with her - you cashed out your retirement, borrowed money from your folks, etc. Her assertion that you "owe" it to her because she moved to be with you is that she can move back where she came from.

What an ungrateful wretch.
posted by notsnot at 9:35 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I do agree with everyone above that this 30yo woman needs to go figure out her own life and stop manipulating and using the OP. However, to answer the question:
I'm freaked out by her starving herself and generally feeling down. How can I help her without feeling like toad while I keep moving on?
- convince her that freelance writing is not the job for her right now. Temp work, retail, fast food, whatever. She needs a day job to support herself, the freelance is just a bonus until she establishes herself.
- point her to government agencies that can hook her up with food stamps, food banks, soup kitchens, etc.
- tell her in no uncertain terms that you are not going to be able to monetarily support her anymore. She made the decision that she was breaking up with you to become independent. That part was easy, this part is hard. Now that she's at the hard part, maybe her decision doesn't seem very smart to her anymore. That is not your problem.
posted by coupdefoudre at 10:00 AM on December 21, 2010

>>How can I help her without feeling like toad while I keep moving on?

Do some research and refer her to government services that can help her with food and employment, etc., and then tell her it's over. That's the only option -- you CANNOT move on (and not feel... like a sucker?) if you financially and emotionally support her.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:06 AM on December 21, 2010

If you're really, actually worried that she doesn't have enough to eat, I bet you could send a pretty strong message by showing up at her place with a month's-worth of Ramen and peanut butter instead of giving her money.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:30 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Are you in any way legally obligated to support her financially? You mention "for a few years that was largely due to visa problems" and that "she'd moved so far to be with [you]". You don't say if her visa is a work visa or a partner visa or what. When I immigrated on a spousal visa my partner was required to sponsor me - to prove his income was high enough that he could support me, and also to agree to support me for the next three years after my permanent residency became valid. This requirement is the same for a conjugal or common-law partner visa (in Canada).

If you're legally obligated to support her and she turns to gov't agencies for welfare help or what have you because you aren't, you could get in a lot of trouble. Even if she left you, under a sponsorship like that you'd still need to provide for her. It sounds like she's taking advantage of you (and that emotionally for you it's best to cut your ties) but if you made a legal commitment of this kind to help her immigrate you may not be able to right now.
posted by flex at 10:35 AM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

My best friend's ex-husband acted pretty much just like this after their separation. He was being a total toolbox. So is your ex. Absolutely don't give her a dime, and maintain a healthy emotional distance from her; no long phone calls, no crying on shoulders. Just "Here's the number of the food bank; I'm sorry, but any other assistance from me is impossible."
posted by KathrynT at 10:40 AM on December 21, 2010

Definitely cut her off and get some support resources together in the form of family and old friends. Talk to them about this, ask if you can lean on them a bit when the going gets rough.

Move the conversation with her to email - ask for some clarification to get her to explain in writing what she wants and why she thinks she deserves it. In your situation, verbal conversations do you no good - too much emotion and no record of what was said. Forward her emails to your support team for their opinion, which can be really helpful.
posted by conrad53 at 10:42 AM on December 21, 2010

It's true that almost nobody is answering the question. We wouldn't answer a question asking "how can I safely amputate my own foot" either. Because the proposed course of action is harmful, and any advice would be enabling that harmful course of action.

OP, you've got a very unusual level of consensus here. You have no obligations to this ex. Supporting, or even trying to help her is not doing her any favors, and it's actively hurting you. There is only one thing you can do here, and it's to completely cut off contact with this person. It will be hard, and it will hurt, but it is literally the only thing you can do here that will have a good outcome.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:03 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she has no relevant restrictions on her visa and you have no obligations under it, then refer her to whatever services she might be entitled to and don't contact her.

If you have obligations under the visa then as flex says, you'll almost certainly have to provide some financial support but not moral support.

If she has ongoing visa problems of the 'isn't legally allowed to work' variety, I reckon you're morally obliged to help her get home. Dunno about legal obligations.
posted by plonkee at 11:25 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dan Savage sometimes suggests to people dumping their pathetic* lovers that they provide some sort of financial support for a set, reasonable amount of time. This seems especially important when they, say, have legitimate problems that prevent them from working. If your girlfriend couldn't work because she moved to be with you, and therefore has a huge gap on her resume, it may make you feel better to provide her some money to get started on her life. I am not saying you are obligated, but if she legitimately couldn't be employed for several YEARS to be with you, you may want to.

Dan also says that people sometimes need to get dumped to take stock of their life choices, and that it can be kind to dump them so they can get it together, and this might be the case for you.

*I mean that in the kindest way possible
posted by jenlovesponies at 11:28 AM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should really only give her resources to help her and encourage to use them. The food bank, a therapist who works on a sliding scale, etc. After that, it's up to you what to do.
posted by two lights above the sea at 11:59 AM on December 21, 2010

She is an spoiled, entitled brat. She is trying to manipulate you into giving her what she wants. It would not surprise me if she lost weight from the flu and tried to tell you she wasn't eating. It also wouldn't surprise me if she bought pretty shoes instead of food. It doesn't matter, she isn't your responsibility.

Do not ever speak to this person again. For your own sanity you need to make a clean and permanent break. You don't owe her support. If anything she should pay you back for the therapy bills. She made the decision to move to be with you, there was no gun to her head. She made the choice now she needs to live with it.

Block her number, don't answer her emails, unfriend her on Facebook, kill any and all communication. The only way to kill the cancer is to cut it out entirely. Yeah it hurts, but you're a lot healthier after.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:11 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm a freelance journalist and writer. I also have an almost full time job because as others have pointed out, it's very difficult to make a full time living from freelancing. A lot of months I do, some months I don't, but the rent and bills are the same either way. While I was geting set up, I had a very well paid partner who absolutely insisted I could and should take the time to do so and not work outside the home - I will forever be grateful for that. However, now that we've broken up, I work 30 hours a week at a shelter, which pays the bills, and still freelance, which pays for extras. If you want to help her, I'd suggest helping her find some way to get a paid job, and do her freelancing on the side until she's established. This is what I'm doing, what most people do, she needs to realise this is normal for freelancing.

Incidentally, my ex still contacts me offering to help - there's a lot of money there - but it doesn't feel right so I say no. This isn't to big myself up as a great person, but to point out that this is the normal way to be, I can't use my ex when things get tough just because the offer is still there. I'd love some help sometimes, and did accept it for a while when I was convincing myself we were 'just friends', but ultimately of course it didn't work out. Do your best to help her find work if you're comfortable seeing her - ask your contacts etc, tell her about jobs you see that might be suitable - but do tell her you can't help her out financially any more. I know that will be tough - I'm a soft spot and would do anything for someone who is struggling - but there's a line between helping her and your own wellbeing being damaged.
posted by mudkicker at 1:14 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it would be helpful to you to realize that she will not die in a gutter somewhere if you refuse to give her anymore support. If she's truly incompetent at holding down a job, well she's shown she's good enough at manipulating you to probably charm some other poor sap into being her crutch instead. Buy her a family pack of kraft dinner and tuna, a jar of peanut butter, and wish her all the best.
posted by lizbunny at 1:22 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

She and her therapist think she needs to be on her own.

Allow her to do that. Remind yourself - over and over - that enabling her behaviors is not helping her.

Now do the hard part. Rip off the bandage. End all contact and let her be accountable to her own choices. It's not for you. It's for her. She needs to be on her own. Get out of her way. And yeah, it'll suck for her for awhile. That's okay.
posted by 26.2 at 2:28 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Boundaries, lots of them.

Figure out how much support you can emotionally and financially manage, keeping in mind that you are no longer obligated towards her in any way, beyond being a kind soul. This could be anything from the occasional lunch to the offer to talk (and I mean talk, not round about guilt tripping obligations). Make it clear from the beginning what your feelings are and how it is you want/are able to help/ be there for her, and then don't deviate from them. If she continues to cross over the boundaries that you have explained, then just drop those things. Walk away.

I think a lot of people know that it's very hard to continue any kind of relationship with an ex. Especially when the other person doesn't seem to grasp the total change in situation and is perpetuating the unhealthy aspects of your previous codependency. It also sounds like you are unable to let go of your feelings of responsibility for this person.

You have to think about yourself first. This might sound selfish, but consider that you have spent the last 5 years going through things on behalf of another person. That relationship is over now, and it's never going to not be over, short of some drastic changes in both of your situations and a lot of time and healing. So healing is what you should do.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 5:19 PM on December 21, 2010

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