Losing your Boyfriend and Bestfriend in one swift move.
December 9, 2011 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Help me stick to my "right decision" even though it's making me feel sick. Dealing with a break-up when you are both still in love and there was no breach of trust.

My S.O (he is male, I am female) and I have been together for more than three years. We have been living together for 2 and a half of those years. We love each other a lot. We get along really well, and are compatible sexually, emotionally, etc.

There are only two problems. One is that he is significantly older than me (I in my mid 20s, he in his late 30s) and the other is that I want kids and he doesn't.

I don't want them NOW, mind you, and that is the biggest reason that we have been able to... avoid the issue as long as we have. His reasoning is that if he was going to have kids he would have had them by now. Mine has been, why break up now for something that might change in the future.

However, lately I have been "lamenting" all of the things I am not doing because of this relationship. Trips I could be taking, pubnights I don't go to. We have a very solitary, stay-at-home, existence. He often said that he "felt bad he was keeping me from doing all the young-people things that I should be doing at this age" I've always hated that stuff, but lately I've been missing it more and more, feeling like I'm "missing out" on something.

It's kind of like... if we WERE going to stay together forever (which I REALLY REALLY want to, so does he) I would be willing to "give up" certain things for him. But I feel like there is "no point" in giving anything up if in the end we can't be together. Wanting kids is non-negotiable to me, and he feels he is to old and will ESPECIALLY be to old when I will want them. Maybe breaking up because I feel like I'm "missing out" is a selfish reason. I don't know.

What I do know, is we had the break-up conversation, both decided it was for the best. But we still love each other, we are still living in the same house, he is my best friend. When anything happens, good or bad, he is the one I want to call. And I can't. And it is breaking me. Every two seconds I'm reminded of losing my lover AND my best friend, and for no real REASON. So there is no sense of closure or anything. If I could be angry at him it would be so much easier to deal with.

So my questions:

1) Did I make the right choice? Does it make sense to break-up for these reasons, or should I "wait it out" and see if circumstances change (maybe I will decide I don't want kids, maybe I can't have kids, maybe he will decide he wants them after all)
2) How do you "deal" with a break-up where no-one did anything "wrong" and you are still completely in love.
3) How do you deal with losing your best friend and boyfriend all in swift move. Especially when as a result of being so insular for several years he is pretty much your only close friend.
posted by pandorasbox to Human Relations (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If he doesn't want children, and his feelings haven't changed over the last 3 years, I can't see any way that waiting it out will make them change. I think you've definitely made the right choice for you, as hard as it might be.
posted by Zophi at 1:37 PM on December 9, 2011 [12 favorites]

These things are tough, so my sympathies.

But these things are not uncommon. One of my best friends (a guy) also broke things off with someone he was crazy about for much the same reason (same age difference, only he was the younger guy and also the one who knew he didn't want kids). It hurt, but it was for the best, and he went on to date a lot of great people (including -- briefly -- me, and his current girlfriend of 9 years). He's also still great friends with that particular ex -- and her son, whom she later went on to have.

So I think the fact that you've made up your mind that you want kids, and he's made up his mind he doesn't, is kind of a dealbreaker there. It sucks, but it's not something you want to compromise on, because that's SUCH a personal decision.

The way you deal with "losing" him as a friend is by making other friends -- which feels like awful hellish impossible right now, but it's the only way. This may be what he trying to say when he said he was "keeping you" from doing "all those young person things" (because, honestly, if it was the going out he was really feeling bad about, why the hell didn't he come with you, you know?), and it's really okay to do that on your own because eventually you make more friends that way.

And then maybe, in a few months, you can start rebuilding a straight-up friendship with this guy -- and ONLY a friendship -- and then maybe he can be part of your life with the kids that you end up having with someone else. My friend has that with his ex's son, and another friend's son (he says he's uneasy around kids, but after babysitting a friend's 2-year-old he was smitten and now watching him and his girlfriend play with the kid is freakin' adorable), and your ex could have that with your own kids someday.

Good luck. This sucks now, but might be just the moment when things changed, not ended.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I haven't been through anything like this, but maybe some advice my fiance offers me whenever I have to make difficult decisions that are really unpleasant in the present might help you:

"Future You will thank you."
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 1:42 PM on December 9, 2011 [30 favorites]

If this were Reddit, I’d be totally down voted for this response.

Stay with the guy if you think HE is worth it.

My partner and I are 30 years apart (I’m 31 and about to have a birthday, he’s 62). When we got together, I was sure I wanted kids. I liked doing fun going out stuff. He was a homebody. I am pretty sure I asked a similar question on AskMe, probably anonymously. Everyone told me to leave him. Someone even said, “You should leave because in 20 years he’ll be dead anyway.”

We’ve been together almost four years now, domestically partnered for thirteen months, and could not be happier. ALL of our circumstances are changed (he got a corporate job after working at home for 30 years, I got a new job), we got a cat, we see theatre all the time, we go out when I say I need to go out and do something fun, and we have an awesome, wonderful existence.

A bunch of my friends from high school have kids now (who didn’t then), and I could not be happier that my daily life is filled with Broadway shows rather than diapers.

Also, I could not be more in love with my partner. He made me believe there is such thing as one soul mate, and no amount of children in the world (I still have biological ticking clock syndrome) would make me leave him. He is the person I’m supposed to be with.

A lot of people are going to tell you that if you have a difference in opinions about kids, it’s a dealbreaker. For me, losing the relationship was the kids’ dealbreaker.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:42 PM on December 9, 2011 [12 favorites]

You can't negotiate or compromise on the kids thing. If you want kids, or think you might, better to end things now. Don't wait 5 or 10 years--first, it will be all the emotionally harder, and second, the older you get the harder it is to have children. So yes, you made the right choice, aside from all the other stuff about feeling trapped and lonely.

First, you need to move out asap. There is no way to get past this while you're living together. Second, time. You just need time. Sorry, I bet you hate that answer. But it's true. I bet it hasn't been too long? This is the time to call old friends, apologize for checking out, and ask them to help. Go out (not dating! just with friends!), have some fun, do the things you've been missing. Go on a trip, go to pubnights, whatever sounds fun--just get out and do it.

Trust me. End this now, and stick with it, before you drag it out for another five or ten years. If you do it now and stick with it, your chances of long-term resentment and anger towards your ex will be a lot less than if you wait. Maybe it will help to think that by doing it this way, you are a lot more likely to preserve your good feelings and potential future friendship with ex than if you wait and break up when you're 30 because you desperately want kids and he doesn't.
posted by min at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry to hear about your breakup. This is definitely a hard situation because there doesn't seem to be anything "wrong" with your relationship. While I don't think age makes any difference, the kids factor is a different story. If you have made up your mind that you absolutely want kids, and he has made up his mind that he doesn't, well it's kind of hard to see the relationship going anywhere unless you're willing to not have kids...it doesn't seem like he is going to change his mind. Roomthreseneteen makes a good point that that for her losing the relationship wasn't worth it to have kids. Just some food for thought there, but at the end of the day, unfortunitely kids are more then likely the deal breaker here. As far as going out and stuff...sure it's nice to enjoy the night life in your mid 20's. But that comes and goes. Plus you don't have to go out with him...you can go out with other friends. Beyond that, this is a tough situation. If you do decide to stick with the break up...and I think it's probably for the best, I would strongly recommend moving out ASAP. You will never be able to move on if you're living in the same place. I wish you all the best.
posted by ljs30 at 1:50 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

How do you get over it? Go out and do all those things your relationship was preventing you from doing. Go on a trip, join some groups, go to a pub, take a class...etc. It seems like you were feeling sad not just because you weren't like all the other 20 somethings, you felt really isolated. Opinions on kids can change, but feeling isolated in a relationship really doesn't. The solitary stay-at-home life wasn't for you. Just because you love someone doesn't mean that your personalities and plans are compatible. Stick with the break up and be glad that it was amicable but also move out (it is very weird that you say you can't call him when you want to talk but you live together).
posted by boobjob at 1:56 PM on December 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

we are still living in the same house

As long as this is the case, you can't move on. It's impossible.
posted by b33j at 1:58 PM on December 9, 2011 [11 favorites]

I'm going to agree with roomthreeseventeen. To me, good love is worth holding onto. It's the most important thing to hold onto.

Have you considered adoption?

Or... polyamory? Why does your lover and best friend also have to be the person you raise children with? It's not right for everyone (emotionally I don't think I could do it and logistically it can be very difficult) but it's worth at least turning the idea over in your head.

Not everything has to be totally black and white.
posted by thrasher at 3:07 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

>we are still living in the same house

As long as this is the case, you can't move on. It's impossible.

Quoted for truth.

Whatever else needs to be done, your first step is moving out.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:13 PM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are two problems here. One is the kids incompatibility, which I can't say much about but it sounds like it's a real dealbreaker. If so... see above -- move out. Call your parents/siblings/ other friends to talk if possible, write in a journal, make new friends. Take trips, take up hobbies, and hopefully be able to have a wonderful friendship with this man at some point.

If your concerns were only about the "missing out" feeling, the following would be my advice. Only worth reading if this second thing is a significant part of why you're breaking up.

Start doing all the things you are not doing because of this relationship. It sounds like he may not do them with you... which might be painful for you or for him, but maybe not, once you got used to a different way of thinking about it. That change might also be good for you both, and help you feel better about your relationship as a part of your life... not something that controls your whole life. I would start by taking a trip on your own or with another friend, and see if you can make a shift in the relationship that maybe involves spending slightly less time together, but enjoying the overall relationship more.

on preview: I was hesitating from going farther, saying what thrasher says... You could even go for having kids "on your own" or with someone else, and keep this relationship in some way important and romantic. An unusual option, but an option.
posted by lilbizou at 3:19 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

By coincidence, I saw this youTube video the other day, and I think it's applicable to your case. The author made a valid point: that Western culture, for multiple reasons, has taught young people to slide into relationship instead of deciding. Thus, people find themselves in relationship situations with constricting choices, but simultaneously isn't what they bargained for. In your case, if you have certain non-negotiable goals, you will have to make hard decisions to achieve those goals. Breaking up is a risk, but staying is also a risk; and ultimately, you won't be happy unless you reach your goals. Just remember that, and take the courageous choice for your own happiness (and your boyfriend too).

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUqfLSBUDmM
posted by curiousZ at 3:24 PM on December 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Are you sure he actively hates the idea of having kids? Most guys don't really know if they want kids or not, but once they somehow end up with kids they almost all find that they are glad they had them.

I would at least try having another conversation with him and check that he is actually hostile to the idea rather than just holding the standard male ambivalent position on kids.

It's hard to find people that are compatible and nice (for me at least), and the age gap listed doesn't sound like much of a problem.
posted by w0mbat at 4:26 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

To answer your questions, yes, ending this was the right choice. The very first answer made perhaps the best point: Based on the information presented, there seems to have been virtually zero compromise about relatively (easy) things like how often you go out and otherwise. That is enormous.

Scads of people to include myself have been in relationships where people find middle ground on things like watching football on a Sunday afternoon vs. going out for a hike, agreeing to go to pubs, etc., somewhere between 3x/wk and roughly never, etc., etc, etc. That one person can't or won't is a really bad sign.

"Here's how it's gonna be, end of conversation" is a horrid approach to a relationship.

(And it sounds like you've more been drawn into this insularity than chosen it as a life that suits you.)

That aside, as people have said, moving out is imperative. Lotsa thought in general with these things that it is wise to let it breathe with no contact for at least a few months, testing the can-we-be-friends? waters.

Dealing with it? It is tough in various ways. It can be striking to think, "Oh, here's a link to something ___ would like," and you start to move the mouse and type to send it because you've done it so often for so long and then you remember....

Cue cliche: That fades, the difficulty is ultimately worth it and there is an overwhelming likelihood that you will find someone more compatible relative to kids and day-to-day life.
posted by ambient2 at 4:27 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're not actually losing both. It feels like that now but you're not. Give it time.

And I agree that you need to move out.
posted by mleigh at 5:50 PM on December 9, 2011

Move. Out. Now! Part of the mid 20's things you feel you're missing out on is living with other people of a similar age/place in life. Its part of growing up and hell, its FUN. Another thing I did in my mid-20s was to live alone - having to set up my own apartment and life taught me a lot about who I am, my resourcefulness at finding a social group outside of my own home, etc. Since you say you've been insular for the last few years, I'd say find a nice apartment sharing situation if you can. Doing this mid-20s thing can lead to a lot of the other mid-20s things.

Two reasons finding your own place: 1) you have never really had the opportunity to LIVE like an early/mid 20s person (or so I'm guessing from the timing of your relationship and your age, apologies if I'm wrong) and 2) you can't get past this relationship, assess whether the breakup was right or wrong, or see anything clearly re: this man until you have your own space to do so. YOUR own space, without him in it, constantly muddy-ing your thoughts.

I will leave it to others to advise you about the rightness or wrongness of your decision but I will say that setting up a new life and thus figuring out things about who you are/are becoming can only help you figure out what and who you want in the future. Good luck.
posted by Eudaimonia at 6:05 PM on December 9, 2011

Long-term relationships are difficult sometimes even when you don't have these kinds of tensions, and if you are feeling trapped now, you are absolutely right to question it.

Go out and take some time for yourself. Get your own place, if you can, or find a nonromantic roommate. You need space to think, to put everything in perspective.

It would bother me if someone I loved and who said they loved me was both so unwilling to compromise (not on kids perhaps, but other things) and so willing to let me go.

Maybe you'll both decide to make it work. Maybe not. Some time to think without the pressure of living together would help, though.
posted by emjaybee at 6:51 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "However, lately I have been "lamenting" all of the things I am not doing because of this relationship. Trips I could be taking, pubnights I don't go to. We have a very solitary, stay-at-home, existence. He often said that he "felt bad he was keeping me from doing all the young-people things that I should be doing at this age" I've always hated that stuff, but lately I've been missing it more and more, feeling like I'm "missing out" on something."

The subconscious is a strange and powerful beast. The fact that you're starting to miss the things you didn't miss before sounds like your unconscious mind confirming the rightness of your decision even though your conscious mind is still processing it.

I'm sorry things haven't worked out for you - it sounds as if you really cared about each other, and still do, and with no immediate or concrete "reason" to break up, it was a brave thing you did there. And it was brave, because you did the right thing when you could have done the easy thing.

Easy would have been to go along with the relationship until it was three, or five, or ten years later and the urge to have children became a "Right now!" thing - and just maybe he still wouldn't be in the right headspace. That would have been misery and with a longer timespan and more significant consequences than what you're feeling at present. Brave is reaslising that even without a clear end date, the broad priorities you have identified for yourself are just that - priorities - and will need to be treated as such sooner or later.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 5:45 AM on December 10, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. It's helping me see perspective.

As to why I "can't move out" it's basically because I have paid rent up until the end of January and as a student I really can't afford to give up two months rent. At that point I'll probably move out, but by then the hurt will probably be a lot less. In the meantime, there is no animosity, but it is definitely...awkward.

As to having kids without him, this is actually something we have discussed and he is pretty against the idea of raising someone else's (even in a donor sense) kid. To be more fair, he loves kids, and actually feels bad that he doesn't think they are "in the cards" for him, but basically, at almost 40 and with no real retirement money saved up, he doesn't feel he is financially stable enough, and that both saving up enough for retirement AND having kids aren't something he can afford. He also thinks that by the time I would want kids, he will be 45, and he doesn't want to be almost 65 and still raising a kid.

Lastly, people seem to assume that he is unwilling to "compromise" on going out with me more. This isn't really fair to him, because honestly if I *ever* said "I really want to do 'x' he is always very very supportive. Either of me doing it alone or him doing it with me. It is more a matter of him feeling awkward at social events that are all my age group. Also when I want to travel Europe for four months he can't just quit his job and come with me. (Although he was more than supportive of me doing this by myself, which I did, but it put a strain on our relationship for sure). I think the problem is/was more on my side. That either I dragged him to something he didn't fit in at (and therefore I didn't enjoy it) or went by myself and it was one more thing that kept us apart. This is really the less important problem. I could solve this problem if I thought it was worth it, but part of me wonders what is the point of working on this, and making these compromises, if we CAN'T be together long-term because of the kids-issue. Which really is a "dealbreaker" for me as everyone says.
posted by pandorasbox at 1:56 PM on December 10, 2011

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