though it might break my heart to walk away
May 4, 2011 10:16 AM   Subscribe

How can I maintain my resolve to follow through with this difficult breakup?

I've decided to break up with my live-in boyfriend. We've been together for a year and a half and have lived together the whole time because we were roommates prior to the relationship. I rushed into it way too fast, mere months after separating from my ex-husband. As much as I love my boyfriend, there are things I want out of life that are incompatible with our continued relationship. I feel like I'm not even aware of everything I want out of life because I've never given myself the chance to figure it out. Except for the few months after my marriage ended, I've been in a relationship for the past 9 years. I can see that I've used relationships to avoid living my own life, and I'm sick of it.

So how can I maintain my resolve to follow through with this difficult breakup? I'm positive that breaking up is the right decision, but I also know how scary a breakup feels in the moment, and I want to avoid caving in to my weaker impulses. The situation is complicated by the fact that he's a few years younger and a lot less financially secure than I am, so I have some guilt about the feeling that I'm throwing him to the wolves.

Here are a couple things I've found helpful in preparing:

- Telling a couple of close friends that I plan to break up with him, and why.
- Fantasizing about life after the breakup -- the relief of telling people we're no longer together, the freedom to spend my time and money exactly as I wish, the time to devote to old neglected friendships and to making new friends...
- This is kind of silly, but the idea of "graduation goggles" from a recent episode of How I Met Your Mother. It reminds me that it's human nature to idealize relationships and experiences just before they end, and to view that as the temporary delusion it is.

Any other advice? What helped you in a similar situation?
posted by spinto to Human Relations (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Find a new apartment is the most important this you can do. Breakups suck, but they suck even more when you are living in the same apartment. Since he is less financially secure than you, it's probably nicer for you to be the one moving out. Think of it as a fresh start.
posted by melissam at 10:32 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

First do it. then tell your friends. No one ought to jump into a new relationship while the previous one is a very short time behind them. That smacks of needing a safety net, and does not allow for time to reflect, grow, sample the world.
posted by Postroad at 10:40 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep telling yourself that no matter how difficult the breakup may feel, staying together just seems easier because it's familiar.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:44 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you talked to him about how you're feeling? My experience with serious relationships is pretty atypical (when we'd been together five years, we talked things over and decided that in a year, we'd break up), but in my case, being able to talk with my then-partner helped a lot. We agreed that the breakup was necessary, and we were able to help each other figure out how our lives would work afterwards.

Other thoughts:
Make specific plans. Know where you're going when you leave. Have a plan for the place you're living now; assuming you've been splitting the rent, can your boyfriend cover it by himself? Will you keep paying your share and if so, how long? Think about any things you own jointly that will need to be divided.

Along the lines of fantasizing about life afterwards, make plans for things you'll be able to do then that you can't do now.

As much as I love my boyfriend, there are things I want out of life that are incompatible with our continued relationship.

...I have some guilt about the feeling that I'm throwing him to the wolves.

Don't feel guilty about that. If you are certain that you can't live the life you want with him, then it would be much worse to stay with him out of a sense of guilt (and maybe eventually to resent him for it) than to let things end cleanly.
posted by Vibrissa at 11:01 AM on May 4, 2011

I'm going to use an unseemly metaphor here and suggest that an unhealthy relationship is a lot like a wart, and breaking up is much like trying to remove it. Whether you freeze it, treat it, or tear it off by hand, it's going to hurt, there'll be some blood, and there's a chance it'll come back. But if you do nothing then you're just living with an ugly, nasty growth that may continue to spread and seriously affect your health and self-worth.

Breaking up is always painful and it can take months if not years for memories, idealized or otherwise, to stop surfacing. 9 years is a long time to have been in committed relationships (and if your profile states your age correctly, you've been in them since a young age). It sounds like some time to yourself is needed in order to reorient. Close relationships can be truly nourishing in many respects, but on the flipside they can deplete our energy and help us ignore the places in which we need the most inner work. You may very well appreciate the sanctuary of solitude.

As Postroad alluded to, one ought not to jump into a new relationship after leaving one, but experience has shown me that what one should and shouldn't do factors very little into a time of such high emotion. Don't judge yourself harshly if you do find yourself seeing someone soon after leaving your current boyfriend.

From a so-called "rebound" I have found an amazing and challenging life partner who recently became my wife. If I had rigidly held the belief that entering into said relationship was driven by a weak-willed need for a "safety-net" I wouldn't have found the person with whom I've grown immeasurably and begun to learn what real love is: difficult, intense and deeply rewarding work.

Before or after your breakup I would suggest reading Love and Awakening by John Welwood. It may very well help guide you through the difficulties you're facing right now as well as help you develop healthy boundaries and a sense of where you want to go next in your journey.

Keep your heart open, just don't give it away!
posted by knilstad at 11:20 AM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I want to second (or third) getting your own apartment and being ready to go when you break up. Once you've found a place and put down a deposit, the whole process will feel a lot more real. It will also give you a setting for daydreams about your new life.

It's good of you to worry about his financial future, but he's got to get it together for himself. That would be true even if you were staying together.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:19 PM on May 4, 2011

You know that list of reasons you have for why the breakup needs to happen? Write it up, carry it around with you, look at it frequently. Ditto a list of his bad traits and things that you will no longer have to deal with any more because you're not with him.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:50 PM on May 4, 2011

Once I decided to break up with someone, I cut myself off from chai, tea, and coffee until I actually went through with worked. Couldn't go 5 days without my caffeine fixations.
posted by mokudekiru at 7:03 PM on May 4, 2011

Having just gotten out of a similar situation and moved into my new apartment just this past Sunday let me tell you how amazing it feels when it's finally, completely over and you have exactly what you've dreamt of.

My ex-girlfriend moved to a new city for me and was unhappy from day one. She couldn't make friends, she was far from family, and she just didn't seem to like anything about being here. My fear of the guilt I would feel kept me from breaking it off sooner. I felt as though I owed her because she had sacrificed something for me. But this was bogus. When I finally realized that I wasn't responsible for her happiness and only owed something to myself (a happy life doing what I want to do) is when I was finally ready to do it.

I couldn't afford to move out right away so I stayed with a friend for the better part of the last two months. He was fantastic and I'm not sure that I could have done thus without him. So I would advise you to figure out an alternate living situation, whatever that may be. Once you know that you have some place else to go the whole prospect of ending it will feel that much more real and achieveable. And believe me, it's a whole hell of a lot sunnier out here on the other side!
posted by fso at 5:31 AM on May 5, 2011

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