Break Up Decision Filter (including a long description)
January 3, 2011 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Break Up Decision Filter (including a long description)

Two years ago my girlfriend & I met, 1 year later we adopted a couple pets, and this past summer we moved to a new city. We moved so she could pursue her new career. At first the move was great. But I wouldn't be writing this if things didn't take a turn. For the past several months things have changed:

- Her new job is stressful. She works hard and for long hours.

- My new job is also stressful (but less so than hers)

- What time I have left I spend doing all of the household chores so she doesn't have to. Laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning up after the two of us, dishes, getting gas for her car, etc...

- GF told me early on in our relationship she battles with an eating disorder and now with the move/new job she's losing that battle more & more. I notice the evidence of her compulsions on a daily basis. She refuses to see a therapist because she's doesn't believe they are helpful and she doesn't have the time and she doesn't have the money

- Because of her disorder she has been gaining weight. This isn't a problem for me, but she believes it is a problem for me. I just hate seeing her upset.

- When we first moved in together we had agreed we both wanted to eventually get married, have kids, buy a house etc.. Now I've realized that I definitely don't want to do any of those things.

Most of my time with her feels like I am walking on eggshells. Trying to avoid or anticipate possible painful topics. I, literally, get a headache the instant she asks me how she looks in an outfit or if she wants to go clothes shopping. I feel like I've tried everything. I've told her my feelings about all of these issues and that seemingly exasperates the issue. I try to keep myself healthy & positive, but the insults & comments against me always bring me back down.

Bottom line is the girl I fell in love with is not the girl I'm with today and I am no longer the same either.

I guess the questions I'm struggling with are: - should I stay or should I go? - If I do go should I do it sooner or later? Part of me wants to wait so that she can get in a tiny bit better place so she won't be so upset. - Advice on how to do this?

Feel free to email me at this anonymous address
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
She's always going to be upset. Bite the bullet and do it with as much kindness as you can. Sadly, there's never going to be a good time to break up with someone but it doesn't sound like either of you are happy so as long as your mind is made up, now is the time.
posted by Jubey at 5:19 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I try to keep myself healthy & positive, but the insults & comments against me always bring me back down.

You should be out the door as soon as possible...

Bottom line is the girl I fell in love with is not the girl I'm with today and I am no longer the same either.

...because there's nothing for you inside.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:19 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Forget most of your reasons about stress, weight, etc. Here's what you need to know:

When we first moved in together we had agreed we both wanted to eventually get married, have kids, buy a house etc. Now I've realized that I definitely don't want to do any of those things.

It's over. Go. Sooner. Handle it like an adult.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:23 PM on January 3, 2011 [20 favorites]

Not being into her, or the relationship, or sharing the same vision for the future all seem like good reasons to end things.

But this alone would be enough in my book:

She refuses to see a therapist because she's doesn't believe they are helpful and she doesn't have the time and she doesn't have the money

She's clinging to her self-destructive behavior here, which alone would be enough for me to bail. Just as I would bail on a relationship with someone who was not willing to seek treatment for alcohol or drug abuse.

People in the midst of an addiction or compulsion will find any number of excuses not to change until they really want to change. Note: I have myself experienced eating disorders and treatment for same, so I have walked a mile in those moccasins, and a bunch of miles before that in the Stilettos of Denial.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:28 PM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

And between now and Break-Up Time, you don't have to discuss anything about her food or her appearance if you don't want to. If she asks you if those pants make her look fat, tell her you're not going to have a discussion with her eating disorder. If she asks you if she should eat $thing, tell her you're not going to have a discussion with her eating disorder.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:29 PM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Please don't wait to talk to your GF about this, and you should never feel like you're walking on eggshells during a relationship. You should be out in the open with everything. Although it sounds like your GF is in a tough situation... so I'd be sensitive about approaching the subject. I.e. if you guys start fighting wait until you calm down to talk about it again... but work at it. Maybe write down all the issues you want to talk about and she can write down all the issues she wants to talk about, and go at it like a checklist. But be honest, even if it's hurtful, it's the best in the long run to be as honest as possible.

Also, because it's a physical eating disorder that might be the stem of all these other issues, I'd really point at a physical way of getting help. Maybe she could talk to someone professionally - even just seeing a doctor once to talk about it and see what type of help she can get. Hearing stuff from a doctor might make her consider that she take a step in getting help. Could you notify a family member that is getting out of hand? (is that a good idea even?)

But please, don't keep these feelings to yourself. She has to know otherwise it's just going to explode and get ultra messy... but ultimately she has to take the step in helping herself... and you can help her do that.
posted by wtfomghilol at 5:33 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

wtfomghilol, my experience (and the experience of many other people I know who have experienced eating disorders) is that the average primary care physician just doesn't have the training or resources to help. All eating disorders are both physical and mental (except for actual mechanical eating disorders like having trouble swallowing, which isn't what's going on here), and the only people who can help are people who have specific training and resources.

Especially if the girlfriend is gaining weight rather than losing it as a result of her disorder--many primary care physicians are so superstitious about weight loss GOOD weight gain BAD that they may knowingly or unwittingly encourage her to adopt equally disordered behaviors in order to lose weight. It's just unlikely to be a helpful intervention.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:55 PM on January 3, 2011

Go. Sooner. You already know this. You've already decided. It's just that it's very difficult to implement. A breakup is not easy even when everyone involved is healthy. It fucking sucks to break up in general, and it sucks more when you live together, and if there are pets in the mix, that just amplifies it. There is no way around it:this will suck. And it will hurt. I'm sorry that it will hurt. I really am.


You do not want to be in a relationship with her, she is causing you emotional (and physical--the headaches) pain, and you cannot fix her. You cannot moderate her feelings and no matter how you time this, you cannot control how upset she'll be. You could not do this even if she were perfectly well right now. This is because she is an autonomous person, and she is responsible for having and handling her own emotions and reactions, not you.

I understand that you care about her. It sucks to hurt someone you care about and have loved, especially when they are vulnerable and ill. But you are not just a friend: this is your (ex-)partner, this is happening in your home, where you live, and this situation is harmful to you. Moreover, this is a woman who believes that you are her partner...and you know you don't want to continue in that role. It is not helping to save that news for her--this is not about 'well, I'm genuinely not sure about the future and I'm waiting while she's actively pursuing treatment and we're going to try to work through this.' She is not choosing to address her issues, and you have already decided to leave--with good reason. Perhaps following through on that may be what she needs to take active control of her disordered internal state. On the other hand, maybe it's not. But such decisions about what she should do about her problems and how they affect her life are on her. It is her responsibility to engage these issues, and for whatever reason, she isn't able to do that. That's genuinely unfortunate. I have been in her place and it hurts to be there, but that doesn't change what you should do.

You do not have to stay. You do not have to stay while someone is hurting you, and you do not have to stay to watch someone hurt herself. You can leave. And you should. I'm pretty sure AskMe is going to give you that permission: now give it to yourself.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:56 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't think you should just immediately break up with her out of hand before talking to her about it. If at one point you thought you wanted to marry her and have children with her, then maybe you also believed she had the capacity to grow and change? Have you talked to her about how close you are to leaving, or that you're thinking of it?

A terribly stressful job, a cross country move can really throw someone into a depression, couple that with a flare up of an eating disorder and it can definitely be a mess. I can't say I don't understand why you're thinking of leaving, but I think if you moved across the country with this person, a conversation about how bad it is before up and leaving them is probably a good idea.

Why not sit her down and say "Your job and your eating disorder are consuming you -- you need to get professional help or I am going to leave."
posted by pazazygeek at 5:57 PM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

People change. The storybook ending is an unfortunate expectation placed on most relationships -- especially those where neither person is aware that things don't ever stay the same. You appear to have learned this throughout the course of this relationship. So now you can enter into your next relationship knowing that both you, her, and your respective situations are constantly evolving. The people I know who have learned this seem to have been able to adjust incrementally along with the changes. Granted it's not a recipe for guaranteed success, but it can make things easier when both people know full well that one day things will be different. You either mutually commit to making adjustments or you end it.
posted by thorny at 6:00 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to answer the "should I go sooner or later" question with an analogy I adopted after my second relationship....

Realizing that you need to break up with a girl is like waking up and finding that someone has duct-taped your nutsack to the bed. Once you gain consciousness and you notice this you will realize that you have two options: you can either slowly peel that tape off your nuts in an attempt to get through the situation with the least amount of pain, or you can rip that tape off your nutsack as soon as you see it and get on with your day.

I've done both, and I recommend the faster route.
posted by Glendale at 6:15 PM on January 3, 2011

Yes you should break up with her; you're totally unhappy with her for several reasons. Follow the Miko Classic, only in this case I'd also tell her that she really, really needs professional help.

You can't save her. You don't even want the same things she does. Get out and save the only life you can - your own.
posted by ldthomps at 6:17 PM on January 3, 2011

It's clearly over. Go. Sooner. Try to do so as kindly as possible, but staying with someone when it's over is NOT a kindness.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:29 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmm, it seems to me there's a middle place here.

Her issues and priorities have started to dominate your life. So her problems need to stay her problems. By that I mean: it is time for you to disengage from her weird drama. Get off those egg shells. Put the focus on yourself. Having been there a bit myself, my experiences is that you need an extreme reorientation. What about you? What about your life? What about your new friends in your new town? What about the things you like doing, and need to accomplish? What about fixing the things holding you back?

Get some friends! Go out and have some fun. Leave her to her misery. It's not yours.

People can contentedly live with alcoholics and people with eating disorders, gambling addictions, etc., if they love those people, and people can go on with their lives until those people are at last willing to change. (Or maybe you're not in love with her! I dunno; you were in love with her. Now you're angry and upset and freaked out, and you can't feel that love.)

And I think she deserves a conversation. Which I think is saying: "I'm not happy. Here are the x number of reasons. This is what I want." And then, if you're up for it, you can offer to work on them. If you're not up for it, don't offer to work on them!

Finally, I do not know why this stands out for me, but really: stop getting gas for her car! I mean I have a few times in my life filled up a gas tank for a partner who has a lot on their plate but what the heck? She drives the car, she can stop by a gas station! You've gone past being a helpful thoughtful person and into crazy territory and no wonder you're burned out.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:19 PM on January 3, 2011

Every once in a while, we get threads where someone says, "I got dumped with no warning" and I think horrible things about the dumper and wonder how relationships ever get to that point. I think I get it now. You've done all you think you can do in your head to fix things. You do "all the chores so she doesn't have to." You "walk on eggshells" so she doesn't get upset.

What you haven't done IS FUCKING TALK TO HER! Sometimes relationships need painful conversations to grow. Talk to her about how this makes you feel. Talk to her about how you're questioning if this is what you want from life. Either you have the painful conversation and choose to take on this issue as a couple or you break up.

Sometimes we think we can fix relationships on our own, but the real relationships that work are the ones where we tackle issues together.
posted by advicepig at 7:27 PM on January 3, 2011 [15 favorites]

I don't see how you can salvage a relationship with someone who is actively dodging the issues in her life. If she won't prioritize getting help with her eating disorder, which she is AWARE SHE HAS, I have a hard time believing she will face anything else about her life that isn't working, including your relationship.
posted by amycup at 7:36 PM on January 3, 2011

Dang! This. is.hard. When we love someone who is hurting and, in turn, hurting us how do you stay? I have never been married but when I think about that prospect, I think 'God, I hope whoever I might end up with will stick around and deal with my bullshit when I don't really know what to do!" And as awesome as I am, I KNOW I got some bullshit. You don't mention sitting her down and telling her what's going on with you. Have you done that? See, the thing with committed relationships is that it sometimes gets ugly. You see parts of the person you love that can make you question the same things you question. She may be right about therapy-doesn't work, no time, no money. But, maybe she will find another positive way to deal with it. And, maybe, she needs your help in figuring that out. I'm not saying you can "save" her, just saying when we're stressed and feel out of control causing ourselves and others all kinds of problems. But, she won't know just how strongly you feel about what's going on if you don't give her or yourself a chance to work through this rough patch. If you feel you've done all you can, then so be it. But, if you've seriously thought about marrying this woman, you owe her at least time to know what you are feeling and an opportunity to figure her way out of it. Of course, if she's being abusive, that is absolutely not cool and can be grounds for dismissal but, if you feel you have the capacity to see past this to what's at heart-she is in a crisis, and feel you can not only support her and ask for what you need and what you expect, things may change...or not. But, you won't know until you give it the old college try. So basically, be her friend.

I've told this story before on the green-about my brother behaving in a way in his marriage that was close to causing divorce. My sister-in-law sat him down and told him he needed to get to doing the work to get out of his funk/crisis/resentment...etc or she was out. She told him how much she loved him and that she would support whatever he needed to do to accomplish this. He responded by getting help and communicating better with her. It's been working out so far. YMMV. Good luck to you.
posted by Hydrofiend at 7:38 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

meant to say: ". I'm not saying you can "save" her, just saying when we're stressed and feel out of control causing ourselves and others all kinds of problems, sometimes we need the people closest to us to let us know they've got our back and to put a foot up our arse." Again, good luck to you!
posted by Hydrofiend at 7:42 PM on January 3, 2011

I think advicepig's comment is right on, but another question to ask yourself is this:

When you say When we first moved in together we had agreed we both wanted to eventually get married, have kids, buy a house etc.. Now I've realized that I definitely don't want to do any of those things do you mean "I definitely don't want to do those things with anyone", or do you mean "I definitely don't want to do those things with her (even when she's at her best)", or "I definitely don't want to do those things with her, given the mess she is in."?

If it's the first or the second, you owe it to HER to leave, even if she wakes up tomorrow and all the stress and the eating disorder are gone. If it's the third, then maybe it's worth figuring things out.
posted by lollusc at 7:54 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

A move and a new career are two serious changes, and together they can really knock a person on her ass. And if that person has a history of unhealthy coping mechanisms or untreated mental illness, a relapse is likely. I sympathize with your girlfriend.

That said, you shouldn't stay with someone out of pity, or out of fear that they'll get worse if you leave.

I don't think it's time to cut your losses yet, though from the sound of it you've already checked out and are just waiting for an opportunity to leave. If you do want to give the relationship a chance, though, I think it's time for you to have a serious talk about the state of things. She needs to take action to improve her mental state, now, or this relationship will collapse. That's not an ultimatum, that's just what's going to happen.

And ask yourself this: if she did get better, would you want to be with her then? Are you willing to stand by her as she climbs out of this?
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:02 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was in a similar boat ten years ago. I described it in my first post to Metafilter.

Her eating disorder found new ways to dig a deeper hole - when I thought it was impossible for things to get worse for us, it found ways to do things. It destroyed our relationship as she became obsessed. It destroyed her physically. It destroyed me emotionally - I understand the whole 'eggshells' phenomena. It nearly destroyed both of us financially. It did destroy her parents financially. I left my career in engineering and began cooking and I will always wonder if I would have made the change if my home life did not turn into the isolated nightmare that it became. If you want further details of how bad things can get - she made several suicide attempts and I just couldn't deal with it anymore. I was becoming a full time caregiver and was ceasing to be in love with her.

I walked away from it after putting up with the eating disorder for almost two years, and for about 9 months after I did, it kept trying to pull me back into it, as her mess ripped through personal friendships, tried to claw itself financially back into my life, and she semi-stalked me. If she really hadn't gotten into a jam, I was at a point where I was almost ready to look into filing a restraining order against her. Seriously.

I cut my losses late. If I knew now what I knew then - I'd have cut it early, been cruel about it, and gladly lived with the knowledge that she hated me forever - because her illness affected me (and still does to some extent). I wish her the best, but she's one ex girlfriend who I never want to run into ever again. I want to know nothing about her. I don't care if she's safe. I don't want to know anything about her.

That's what I did. Your mileage may vary. Maybe it will go better for you. I do not envy your situation. And, eh, feel free to memail me if you need any support or need to vent on it.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:04 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for having a SERIOUS discussion with your GF before making a final decision.

From your question, I don't have a sense she knows the state of mind you are in, and I think you owe it to the relationship and yourself to make her fully aware.

Best case, you find out the relationship isn't working for either of you, and a break-up is mutual.

Best Best case, maybe she gets it together and you guys grow closer.

The worst case scenario of talking to her seriously is that when you do break-up with her, it won't be a big surprise - and that is still a win for you both from where I stand.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:11 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Bottom line is the girl I fell in love with is not the girl I'm with today and I am no longer the same either."

I suggest that perhaps the girl you fell in love with IS the girl you are with today. You are just not drunk with infatuation and can see again. Now that you are owned, there's no need for her to disguise her real self and/or expend the energy that was necessary to capture you. The exit costs for you exceed the staying costs, at least in her mind.

I also suggest that you ARE not the same, but the behaviors you are expressing are the ones you will express generally when confronted with this type of problem. These include conflict avoidance and enabling.

While it's true that even rocks weather with time and exposure, for the most part, change happens gradually. The 'bottom line' you state seems to me, at least, to be exactly incorrect.

Project this trajectory 5 years. Is that where YOU want to be? Girl is making some choices and so are you. Behavior isn't accidental. You both are doing what you are doing because that is PRIMARILY what you WANT to do.

There is no Mrs. (or Mr.) Right. There are lots of folks who are healthy. Do you recognize them? Do you have one for a girlfriend? Is your relationship mutually satisfactory and growth producing? Can you make it so?

All of these are hard questions, and have to be balanced against being too selfish and mean or uncaring, but they should be asked and honestly answered. Then you might know what to do.

Good luck, amigo.
posted by FauxScot at 2:02 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

My first marriage closely resembled your relationship, and Nanukthedog's. I hung on until she finally left me, but in retrospect I wish I'd been self-possessed enough to end it years earlier.

Your girlfriend's refusal to take responsibility for her problems makes them insoluble. She can't care for herself and won't work with a professional, so you end up being the default caretaker, but you have neither her consent, nor the skills, nor the objectivity, nor the safe home life to go to for recuperation during off-hours, that even a professional would need to be able to do the job. The longer such a pattern continues, the more it costs you -- and for what? You can't fix her problems no matter what you're willing to sacrifice.
posted by jon1270 at 3:39 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

She insults you, that's enough.

In a similar situation (sans insults) my ex wanted to break up with me. He had nothing there for me. I could tell. It made my insecurity 10x worse. That might be a possibility here. When we finally broke up it was a relief.

He also brought out the worst in me--not on purpose, not his fault. Specifically, we'd gotten into a pattern where he reinforced my tendency to be obsessive about my health. He hated doing it and was exhausted by it, and I was getting worse, but we'd gotten so entrenched in it that we kept at it anyway.

Plus, the time and energy that went into even the good parts of the relationship made it harder to focus on getting better.

So there was never a time when I was going to just "get better" while in that toxic relationship. I suspect that's the case with your girlfriend as well.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:03 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most of my time with her feels like I am walking on eggshells. Trying to avoid or anticipate possible painful topics. I, literally, get a headache the instant she asks me how she looks in an outfit or if she wants to go clothes shopping. I feel like I've tried everything. I've told her my feelings about all of these issues and that seemingly exasperates [exacerbates?] the issue. I try to keep myself healthy & positive, but the insults & comments against me always bring me back down.

She is abusing you. You are in an abusive relationship. It's okay to leave. In fact, that's the only thing that's likely to improve either of your lives.

Easier said than done, of course, but the first step is recognizing that she is not treating you right and that you don't have an obligation to stick around for that.

I know that talk about abuse gets peoples' backs up because they read "She's abusing you" as "She's an inhuman monster motivated only by a desire to make you suffer" and so come up with other explanations for why she is abusing you: she is stressed from the move, she is stressed from work, she has an eating disorder, she has low self-esteem, and so on. All that may be true but none of it would mean she's not abusing you.

The issue with abuse isn't "Is the abuser a good person or not?" but "Should anyone be treated this way?" Maybe she's a great person to work with or is devoted to charitable causes or has a rich and complex personality. You still shouldn't be treated this way.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:12 AM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

Honestly, I'm dealing with a similar situation (different particulars, much the same feelings and abstract issues) right now. I went for the break-up. It is honestly the most awful pain I've ever had in my life, because I really do care about her. (I will admit that my life has been blessedly free of genuine tragedy like deaths & such...)

In hindsight, I would say try to sit down and have the serious talk first. But let her know that you just don't feel the same about marriage, kids and house. This may be a real deal-breaker for her anyway. However, you're both under a lot of stress and that may color a lot of these feelings.

That said: It sounds like she really does need help. If she refuses to accept it, there's nothing you can do to "fix" her. Your presence in her life may or may not partially enable her to "fix" herself (I've done it), but you CANNOT actually bank on that or plan for it or take any action at all to encourage it. That'll either happen or it won't, and in the meantime you may be miserable and in fact may make her problems worse because of your own misery.

Have the talk. It may lead to a break-up anyway, but you'll feel more honest about it. I wish I had found such a moment before now...but, then again, I'm pretty sure I did it already more than once and I just can't see it now because of all the new concerns about the break-up.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:43 AM on January 4, 2011

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