Morally torn.
March 17, 2012 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Dilemma: I plan to break up with my boyfriend but we live together. Our lease is up at the end of May. I know that the right thing to do would be to tell him now so he has time to find an apartment (I've started looking for one). What is the right thing to do here?

The break up part is solidified in my mind so there is no going back on that. I would like to do the right thing and hopefully salvage our friendship in the long-term, but what's more important is that I want to do right by him now. Should I tell him today? Wait till the end of March? Is a month notice unfair? I can always move out a month early, and pay through the end of the lease if I have to. I'm torn about this. Please advise.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The right thing for you to is, if possible, for you to move out right now. Stringing him along until he has no time to find a place is just wrong, so please stop considering that.
posted by Philemon at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

Tell him immediately. It is the best and most loving thing to do for you and for him - and best honors your hope for future friendship. If you can afford to by any stretch of the imagination*, move out immediately. Give him your half of April and May rent in advance, and let him decide what to do next.

*This includes moving back in with parents, moving in with friends, taking a short-term sublet, dogsitting, housesitting, anything. Do not stay in the apartment.
posted by arnicae at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2012 [11 favorites]

It seems like you answered your own question by saying: "I know that the right thing to do would be to tell him now so that he has time to find an apartment..."
posted by livinglearning at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2012 [21 favorites]

Find a friend you and your stuff can stay with until you find your own place separately, like now, and then tell him as soon as possible so he has as much time as possible to find a new place.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:20 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I broke up with a boyfriend while living with him. It was amicable, in the sense that we each trusted the other not to be trying to screw us over financially, but inevitably an emotionally charged situation. During the two weeks before I found another apartment, I could barely sleep or eat and didn't notice that I'd lost between 10 and 15 pounds until my pants starting fall down.

So my advice would be: find a place for yourself ASAP, tell him you're moving out but will continue to pay your share (whatever you currently pay) through the end of the lease, and move out.
posted by ecsh at 9:20 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you anticipate in any way that he might become violent? If so, don't tell him until you have someplace you can move to immediately.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:22 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

On failure to preview: paying your share in advance and crashing with a friend are both great suggestions.
posted by ecsh at 9:22 AM on March 17, 2012

You should move out now, absolutely.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:23 AM on March 17, 2012

I don't think a month's notice is fair in this situation. A month's notice is ample in other situations, but all of the other considerations and adjustments that he is going to have to make might take some time to figure out, all while he is processing the emotional side of the break-up. If it is truly feasible for you to do this, I am in support of your suggestion to move out early and pay through the end of the lease.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:24 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, the best thing for you to do is to line up a place you can move into immediately, then tell him you are breaking up and you are moving out right away. Don't leave him holding the bag for rent on your shared place.

Second-best, if you can't swing the above financially, is to tell him you're breaking up and that you're willing to move out into your own place but only if he can swing the rent himself for the last two months of the lease. Then start sleeping on the couch, and generally be gone from the apartment as much as possible.

The second-best option is going to be much more painful for both of you, so if you can make the best option work--even if that involves couchsurfing with friends or family--it's the way to go.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:24 AM on March 17, 2012

Response by poster: I was in your exact position! Even with the lease at the end of May and break-up in March! Here is my advice:

1) Tell him now - don't string him along

2) Move out immediately - seriously, the longer you two are in the same space, the less the chances of you ever being friends with him. Pay your rent and share via sending it directly to the landlord/utilities company, not to him.

3) DO NOT TALK WITH HIM FOR A LONG TIME. Say what you need to say, let him say what he needs to say (good break-up advice), and at the end tell him you think it's best if you do not talk for a while. Remove his Facebook, delete his phone number, hang out with mutual friends separately, do not make an effort to approach him, and if he pursues contact with you be kind but firm that it is a bad idea to speak with one another.

Severing contact sounds counter-intuitive, but seriously, #2 and #3 are so, so important. My ex and I did not do that and the result was messy, emotional, and three years after our break-up (the length of time of our relationship!) everything is still very awkward, he is still sore, and we are not friends. All the talking and attempts at friendship and seeing each other in groups really fucked with both of us (especially him). You will want to talk with him, he'll want to talk with you, but in the long run it is best if you sever this as quickly as possible to allow both of yourselves the most time to move on.
posted by Anonymous at 9:25 AM on March 17, 2012

Oh, I dunno. I went through an ostensibly no-contact break up last year and felt sufficiently betrayed, deceived, and abused by the situation that I have no interest in ever talking to the other party again. It's definitely easier for the person initiating the break-up to sever all contact, but this doesn't necessarily do a whole lot for the other party's peace of mind. I think it depends a lot on the shape of the relationship and the amount of investment that has gone into it. If it's been a short-ish low comittment kind of deal, then yeah, clean no-communication break-off is probably fine. If it's something that some real blood and sweat and tears have been invested in, a 'clean' walk-away can feel like a real betrayal. I have lingering trust issues because of the shit I went through, since all of that investment was essentially wiped out unilaterally, without negotiation, and without prior indication of any problems.

So yeah, ymmv.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:42 AM on March 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

The only time to delay is when it helps them. One GF did me wrong, I found out, and delayed by 3 weeks because the bar exam was coming up for her. Actually took a bus 200 miles to support her in between the test days because she was freaking out. Told her as she dropped me off outside my place on the ride back.

Still failed it.

Drop that bomb today. Get a new place now.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:46 AM on March 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

If it's something that some real blood and sweat and tears have been invested in, a 'clean' walk-away can feel like a real betrayal.

If it's something that some real blood and sweat and tears have been invested in, being dumped is going to feel like a real betrayal regardless of how it's done, and maintaining contact is only going to cause the dumpee to try to seek comfort or endless explanation from the dumper, which causes false hope if supplied and turns the whole thing just gangrenous.

Dumping somebody is just a hurtful thing to do. There's no way around that. Cutting all contact after the actual dumping's been done is usually the least hurtful of all the possible hurtful ways to do it.

Stringing somebody along to make the dump date work out more conveniently I would count as manipulative and needlessly cruel.
posted by flabdablet at 10:03 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Break up with him immediately. And, if possible -- and it sounds like it is -- move out ASAP and pay your share through the end of the lease.

Stringing someone along is always needlessly painful and cruel. Yes, the right thing to do is to tell him now so he can find a new place (as you apparently know). The right thing to di is also to tell him now so that you aren't stringing him along when the relationship is over. Especially since you want to salvage your friendship in the long-term, you have to do right by him here.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:17 AM on March 17, 2012

What are you actually torn about? Do you not want to do the thing you think is right?
posted by sm1tten at 11:18 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

re: flabdablet:
I think the 'cut all ties immediately and never talk' school of thought buys far too much into the notion of people as isolated individuals. We live in community and are defined by the relationships that we build and are engaged in: It is a grave disservice to oneself to sever a deep relationship without at least talking about it. There are circumstances where it is warranted, I'll agree (abuse comes to mind), but I don't think it's the one-shoe-fits-all that the DTMFA crowd believes it to be. Beyond a certain point, I believe a couple should definitely engage in couples therapy first, in order to ascertain whether the problems in the relationship are something that can be realistically addressed. If the answer turns out to be no, then, yes, it's time to pack up and move on, and yeah, probably cut all contact in order to keep things sane. But advising that someone cut all contact without first approaching the question of working out problems with their SO is, to my mind, completely irresponsible.

Basically, I agree with the other posters here, that probably the best thing to do - if the OP is unwilling to engage with their SO about their issues in the relationship, or if that's already failed - is to tell them immediately and move the hell out. It's unfair to expect the boyfriend to move on short notice, especially as the OP has had time to mull over the issue and consider options for moving forward that the boyfriend has not.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2012

I'm with kaibutsu - the 'sever all contact' thing doesn't apply to all relationships (though it no doubt makes it easier for the dumper).

Tell him now, give him space (crash on a friend's couch until you can find somewhere new), and do give him the chance to talk to you and understand (at least in part) where this is coming from. If he persists in calling, talking, and behaving like you're still close and intimate friends (which is understandable, given that you are/were), then comes the time that you may need to start cutting down contact. Don't make that decision for him right away though - If you can not only end the relationship but also cut him completely out of your life right away, it can make it seem like none of it meant anything to you at all.
posted by twirlypen at 2:59 PM on March 17, 2012

Breaking up with someone is like detoxing. Love is an addiction. You need to have no contact in the way that an addict needs to go cold turkey. THAT is why people say you need to sever all contact. You take a lot longer to get over them as long as they're still around to get "hits" off of.

I know everyone else is saying "Dump him ASAP," but I think you need to have the plan to move out done first before you do. Yes, that's just like in When Harry Met Sally ("Mr. Zero knew you were getting a divorce before you did?"), but getting yourself out of there as soon as you possibly can after you say it's over, rather than taking a few days/weeks to move your shit while he's reeling, will lessen the pain.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:14 PM on March 17, 2012

Response by poster: Actually, the "sever all contact" recommendation is to make it easier for the dumpee. Most, if not all, break-up advice for the dumped involves breaking off contact. I think it would be easier for the dumped to maintain contact, they're the ones doing the dumping so the continued contact is not as painful. But when you're the one who's been dumped contact just creates more opportunities for "But why" and "What if" and agonizing conversations about "what did I do wrong, what can I do better". kaibutsu, I am sorry that you were dumped in such an abrupt way, and I certainly don't mean to recommend that the dumper not look for avenues for reconciliation if the situation is appropriate (like through couples therapy) or respond to any reasonable questions from the dumped.

But in my experience, as a dumper who did maintain contact, in retrospect it was terrible for both of us. Maintaining contact can be a selfish act for the dumper--you get to maintain the close relationship and the ego-stroking of someone's adoration while you work on moving on. And even if you don't engage in that behavior, it is impossible to pretend that there are no feelings for the person you're dumping. Every interaction becomes colored by them, sending a ton of mixed messages to the ex (and even if you don't the dumped looks for them). Generally the younger the couple is, the messier this kind of "maintained contact" break-up gets.
posted by Anonymous at 3:33 PM on March 17, 2012

It would be best for you to break up as soon as possible as well as move out right away. As far as cutting off contact, well...if this is the type of guy who might get a bit crazy after the break up then yes sever all contact. But if you don't see him stalking you, calling you incessantly, or causing you physical harm, you don't have to be quite as gung ho on the whole no contact thing especially since you seem to wanna maintain a friendship with this guy. When you break up with him, I think it's fair for you to spend some time explaining why you're breaking up as well as give him enough time to express his feelings and ask questions, etc. Once that's done, contact at first should be minimal. But as others have said having no contact won't necessarily make it easier for him. Maybe for you, but for him it will be harsher. Remember, his life is about to drastically change because of this break up. That's the disadvantage to living with your SO and then breaking up. So be kind. Be firm, but be kind. At first don't initiate too much contact with him. If you're going to remain friends, you can slowly re establish things in a couple of months. All the best.
posted by ljs30 at 5:37 PM on March 17, 2012

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