If it will not end in marriage, when do you cut it off?
June 14, 2011 4:29 PM   Subscribe

You know marriage is not in the future of your relationship. The relationship is still good and you're still in love. How do you know when to cut it off?

I'm in a relationship that has been going well for a little over half a year now and I am trying to decide when is the best time to break up if both partners are currently happy but marriage is not in the cards.

The person is the same person here. After that I attempted to break up with them and they did a complete turn-around about showing affection and have been very open about it since. It is very clear that they're very, very in love with me. But I can tell this is not a marriage relationship. There some personality traits of my partner that are minor issues in the context of a dating relationship, but would eventually lead to serious trouble in a marriage or long-term, live-in relationship. These are the sort of fundamental traits that would require the kind of massive self overhaul of themselves that I could not demand and at this moment they would not be ready or willing to make. We also have some major differences on serious marital issues, such as ideas regarding children and childcare.

I get the feeling they would like to get married to me but know I do not feel the same way. They say things like "Nobody's going to marry me, nobody would be able to put up with me" and it makes me sad. I love them and I think they're a good person but it is true. They have a tremendously difficult personality and I am one of those people who would not be able to put up with it.

But we are still having fun and enjoying ourselves. We are still in love. They definitely do not want to break up, they have told me I am the best person they have ever dated. How do I know when I should cut it off?
posted by Hey nonny nonny mouse to Human Relations (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Don't make the decision based on the other person. Is marriage (with someone) your ultimate goal? If so, then you should be making your decision to break up relative to moving on towards that goal. And you can't really move towards that goal while you're still dating that person.
posted by kch at 4:34 PM on June 14, 2011

Everyone pretty much told you to cut it off last time, so I think the best answer to the question, "How do I know when should I cut it off?" is "Seven months ago."
posted by hermitosis at 4:35 PM on June 14, 2011 [25 favorites]

Not all relationships have to end in marriage or a break. If you love this person, and enjoy fucking them, then I don't understand why you would let something like a societally-prescribed relationship trajectory interfere with your happiness.

Relationships can be a fluid thing, if you allow them. Instead of following the standard path of date->live together ->get married->have kids, you could instead simply continue on as you do with what works, changing what needs to be changed, all the while looking for an additional person to fulfill your needs for a homelife and children.

Living your life in such a way may shrink your pool of potential childhaving partners. But perhaps not as substantially as you might think.
posted by Netzapper at 4:39 PM on June 14, 2011 [12 favorites]

If you're still in love and having fun, I guess the point where you cut it off is the point where you feel like finding your future spouse is your priority over having fun with this dude. Is that where you're at now?
posted by bleep at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2011 [14 favorites]

Well, honestly, I think you need to consider the other half of this relationship. What does that person want? If that person WANTS marriage and you are certain that you could never do that, then I'm going to gently suggest to stop being selfish and cut her/him loose because it's not fair. It sucks and it will hurt, but it's the right thing to do.
posted by floweredfish at 4:43 PM on June 14, 2011 [13 favorites]

We also have some major differences on serious marital issues, such as ideas regarding children and childcare.

Now, now, now do it now.

My ex-husband and I were extremely in love and were very, very happy together. Except that I wanted children (desperately) and did not (equally passionately). We thought we could "work it out" but we ended up flaming out instead. It was awful, for everybody. Especially for me. I did re-marry and now have a son and I believe that he's gone on to be happier as well, but I feel like I "lost" or "wasted" the time we were together that I could have spent with a partner who would have been more supportive of my desire for a family.

It would have been so much better for both of us if we had parted ways sooner. Certainly would have been easier had we not been married.
posted by sonika at 4:47 PM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

Why are you thinking about breaking it off, if you're in love?
posted by MattWPBS at 4:49 PM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

Bail immediately. If the purpose of dating for you is to find a life partner and it is clear this person is not that partner, you need to not prolong the inevitable. Additionally, if you want children and he does not, and you are female, and you want to parent with a partner, time can be an issue.

It's OK to be in a car going nowhere because you really are enjoying the ride. But if it's more important to you to get somewhere, you need to get out. Sorry. BTDT and it's hard.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:56 PM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Well, you asked him to make changes, and apparently he did. He might be interested in marriage - with you. It is possible you have unintentionally conveyed to him that was where the relationship was headed. If you are positive he is not marriage material for you, then end it NOW, not later.

If you have seen red flags regarding a more serious relationship, and that is what you ultimately want ... end it. For both of you. So you can BOTH move on. And make it a clean break.
posted by batikrose at 4:56 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I do not personally possess the kind of disposition that would allow me to stay in a relationship that has no discernible endgame. If it were me in your situation, I know that if I stayed with this man for any length of time after determining that we were ultimately not compatible for a long-term/permanent relationship, I would grow to resent the factors that rendered that future null and void, and eventually, I would come to resent my partner as well. That isn't fair to anyone involved. You both deserve to be in relationships with people whose endgames match yours.

For me, I know that I am still in love with someone I am fundamentally incompatible with, despite being in a new and (finally!) stable relationship with someone I am growing more and more keen on by the minute. Your heart is big enough to love someone you don't end up with. Your brain just has to get in on the picture in a smart enough way to help you discern when and where that love is appropriate.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:58 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

It comes down to your priorities. If getting married and having kids is your main goal, then this relationship is not helping you get there. And I agree with sonika that the "danger" of staying in such a relationship is that you may eventually feel unable to extricate yourself and stay with them even though you know it won't let you accomplish a very important goal in your life.

(I'd add that if getting married and having kids is a very important goal, you should figure out what qualities you require in such a partner and try to filter for those as early in a relationship as possible, since that will lessen the chance of getting into another relationship like this)
posted by wildcrdj at 4:59 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can get out when you find that staying in the relationship is requiring you to change or accept things that are not comfortable for you. Otherwise, I don't buy into the theory that a relationship that isn't the one you die in is "wasted". You are living your life. If you are happy and in love, can that be enough? If it can for now, then you don't need to rush off. If it really isn't enough, which may be the case given your question, hard to tell, then move on.
posted by meinvt at 5:11 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

One thought: if you wouldn't put up with certain qualities in a marriage partner, why on earth should you be expected to put up with them now? If you feel like you're doing all the work for little to no emotional return-- or are in any way being taken for granted-- move on.

(Hey everybody---heteronormative much? Based on the previous question, I assumed Anon is a woman and her partner is a stone butch, but oh well. We could all be wrong.)
posted by aquafortis at 5:20 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's best you at least express your feelings so that your partner can decide whether or not continuing in the relationship is the best use of his or her short time on this earth. However, maybe you should wait until the weekend so this unlucky person doesn't have to show up at work tomorrow morning a total mess.

Despite "fundamental" differences between you and your partner (who has a "tremendously difficult personality" and requires "massive self overhaul"), you haven't decided with finality that this person is not marriage material. You've implied that at some point in time you could reasonably demand that this person make acceptable adjustments, attitudinal or otherwise. But you haven't said why you must wait to do this. Why not bring it up now?
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 5:28 PM on June 14, 2011

My vote would be now, because you'll still need the time to get over this person, find someone else, figure out if they're the person you'd like to marry, etc.
posted by biochemist at 5:30 PM on June 14, 2011

They say things like "Nobody's going to marry me, nobody would be able to put up with me" and it makes me sad. I love them and I think they're a good person but it is true. They have a tremendously difficult personality and I am one of those people who would not be able to put up with it.

Yeah, it's their job to do the work they need to do to be a more agreeable person worth marrying. They're not doing it for you. By saying 'woe is me' stuff like that they are guilting you into putting up with their difficult personality so they don't have to change. Sometimes the nicest thing you can do for a person is give them a solid reality check.

It's not very nice of them to "keep" you with pity. Cut the cord. Find someone you would marry.
posted by griselda at 6:01 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

The longer you leave it the harder it will get. Consider also the cognitive dissonance of putting energy and emotion into a relationship you know is not going to last.

If you end it earlier rather than later, you're being kinder to the both of you.
posted by prettypretty at 6:06 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you cannot see yourself marrying this individual or making the compromises you would need to make in order to be in a LTR with this person, you owe it to both of you to move on ASAP.
posted by mleigh at 7:00 PM on June 14, 2011

Some people can deal with just letting a relationship unfold without knowing where it's going (or knowing it's not leading to marriage). Based on these questions, it seems like you might not be one of those people, and that's fine.

But before you make your mind up to "cut it off," why not try having a really honest conversation with your partner? If you're still in love, it seems like you might want to talk it over before deciding (on your own) to have the breakup talk.
posted by pourtant at 8:16 PM on June 14, 2011

To me, it seems like if children are a critical part of the equation, time becomes a much more pressing aspect of the relationship – whether it's an opposite-sex couple, same-sex couple or any combination of possible gender identities. If one partner knows for sure they want children, and the other is equally adamant that they don't, this introduces a lot of fairly vital criteria beyond being happy together for now.

Keeping up with a toddler is different at 20-something, 30-something, and 40-something; being able to decide to have a second child (by any means – I'm not just talking about fertility) if it works out to be something you'd both want is another factor, as is the unknown time period of how long it might take to find romantic interest who does want the same things and is also a great partner in other respects.

That's my profoundly non-expert opinion. Otherwise, I'm personally more on the in-love-and-happy-together?-Take-your-time! boat.
posted by taz at 4:01 AM on June 15, 2011

The longer you leave it the harder it will get.

This is very true. Unless there is an obvious cut-off (eg one of you will move far away), if things are always sort of okay, what will ever prompt you to end it?

You shouldn't stay with someone out of pity or because they think they can't do better than you. You are not a social service agency whose mandate is to ensure that difficult people get to have a relationship. You should seek a relationship that is fulfilling for you and your own actual needs and wants.

Looking at your previous questions, it seems like you've gone through some tough times and instability. In that context, is the relationship helping or hindering? Do you feel like the relationship is contributing positively to your feeling stable and keeping your mood elevated, making you feel capable and positive and forward-looking, helping you to reach your dreams and keep anxiety or fear of success at bay? Or do you feel like it's draining energy that you need for other things, keeping you from becoming more confident, closing off opportunities for making other new positive friendships and exploring new hobbies or interests etc?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:04 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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