How do I keep one (little) footbridge unburned in a breakup?
May 24, 2013 7:55 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to write a short breakup email to someone I need to go "no contact" with for a while... while still leaving a relatively positive line of communication open between us, longer-term. How do I do this?

As background, he is basically doing the "breakup-by-cop" thing with me (or maybe is testing me to see how much I REALLY love him, which is similarly untenable), so my email is just a way to rip off the band-aid so I can move on. He is clinically depressed and going through a particularly bad time right now. I am enormously sympathetic, but I know that I have reached my limit of what I can do, and of what kind of treatment I can bear from him.

I think I'd know how to phrase this, or how to just walk away, if we could just make a 100% clean break, but... he owes me a not-insignificant amount of money, which he has agreed to repay by x day of next year. As many a MeFite has advised, I didn't loan anything I couldn't assume was just gone forever (and I did get it in writing), but I'd like to make my chances of being repaid as good as possible. I do think we could be friendly eventually, too, but I feel like he has shut down that option for the time being.

What is the most concise way I can communicate that I am DONE... but doing it gently enough that he is not so scared of feeling bad if/when he approaches me (about the money) down the road? In case it helps, this is a long-distance relationship, so there are no other day-to-day factors to address. My attempts to phrase even just a short message thus far have felt either too final, too doormat-y, too angry/hurt, or too patronizing.

Thank you in advance for any ideas. (Oh, and by the way, there were a LOT of dating warning phrases earlier on. I could've saved myself (and maybe him, too) some real heartache if I'd known how to at least listen for them. So thanks for that, too, for next time.)
posted by argonauta to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't send an email that he can read and re-read and share with his friends. Call him. Tell him that you need some time away from being in a relationship. Don't blame his illness. Don't blame his behavior. You are doing the breaking up, the kindest thing to do is to put it all on you, with as little information as possible. Wish him luck. End on a warm note. And then don't take his calls for a month or so. Don't respond to his emails.

Once feelings are cooled then you can try for a friendship.
posted by myselfasme at 8:06 AM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sounds rough.

Having acknowledged (to yourself) from the start that you could live without this sum of money, and done all you could at the time to ensure its return, it's probably best for you to proceed now under the assumption that it's lost and not try to set your mouth just right (southern phrase, sorry) so as to maximize your chances. Seems to me, situations like this are why you lend wisely in the first place, which it sounds like you did.

Good luck.
posted by Infinity_8 at 8:06 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you lend money to loved ones, you have to expect not to get it back. I know that sounds harsh, but if you treat a lending situation in any other way, you're going to set yourself up for heartache.
posted by xingcat at 8:16 AM on May 24, 2013

Dear X,

I understand you are going through a particularly bad time right now. While I am enormously sympathetic, I also know I have reached the limit of what I can do, and what kind of treatment I can bear. Now is probably a good time for us to step out of each other's life for a while, take a breather, find peace and heal.

Nevertheless, I truly believe we can and will be friends again one day. Until then, I wish you the very best from the depth of my heart.

posted by enlivener at 8:17 AM on May 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

"Unless you are communicating repayment information about the loan I made to you that is due on x date 2014, I do not want to have any contact with you until after that date."
posted by easily confused at 8:18 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need to let him go and let the money go. I know it's cool to stay friends with exes but he's already depressed and I don't think your intentions are really going to help him. You want to stay in touch. He would be better off not staying in touch. Leave him alone, and let the money stuff go for now.

Also, he may be depressed but he'll probably be fine, and I kind of think you know that. There's something about your post that makes me think you want to write the email for other reasons. Go no contact and give both of you a ton of time.
posted by discopolo at 8:19 AM on May 24, 2013

I think you leave the footbridge unburnt by not being a jerk to him when you break up. So, be clear and firm, but don't say anything cruel. I think you should not dangle the possibility of future contact in front of him at this point. If you need to go "no contact," I think it's a bad idea to have the seed of future contact planted in his head.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:24 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would write an email, specifically for the the benefit of reiterating that you expect to be repaid on your loan to him.

I like enlivener's very much, but add this line to it, before the closing:

"Just to confirm, we do agree that you'll be paying $ on dd/mm/yyyy to close out the loan I made to you on dd/mm/yyyy."

I may come off slightly colder, but it's unambiguous and that's what you need.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:32 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Don't send an email that he can read and re-read and share with his friends.

This. If you send him an email that offers any hope, he'll use it as an excuse to get back in touch the next time he feels like it.

As far as the money-- you have a date set next year for him to pay it back and you have it in writing. You can get in touch with him on that date, give him a polite reminder what it says on the note. Put that on your calendar and until then, forget it.
posted by BibiRose at 8:39 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seeing as he's trying to "break up by cop," i.e., force you to break up with him, I think it's fine to do it by email. You can be polite and unemotional.

I am guessing you are never going to get repaid the money, which could figure into why he is forcing you to do the breaking up in the first place. (If he breaks up with you, there is this sense that he at least owes you the money. If you break up with him, it could almost be rationalized that you owe him. I'm not saying this is what I think, mind you.)

As BibiRose says, you can still get back to him when the date for repayment rolls around, but honestly I think it's unlikely he'll pay you back voluntarily.
posted by loveyallaround at 9:07 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you want to have this hanging over your head for the next year, only to not get paid back anyway?

If so, proceed with your plan.

Personally, I would consider that loan your buy-out fee from this relationship. I would consider it "fuck you" money (that's the money I throw at people/problems to get them off my plate and out of my life) and consider the money gone.


I would write a brief email stating the agreement, and saying you will appreciate timely repayment from him as much as he appreciated receiving the loan from you. Or something like that.

The money is gone and he sounds likes dick. You're being too nice - depression isn't an excuse to drop all common decency. You do the right thing here by reminding him he has an adult responsibility to pay back money he borrowed by X date, and then you bounce.

Door is closed on your end. If the money shows up on your doorstep, GREAT.

If not, you'll have long since moved on, your valuable life is yours and you're not wasting it worrying about people or situations that don't enrich you.

Get it? Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 9:20 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Skip the email and write this entire relationship off as the bad debt that it is.
Any further contact is just another opportunity for him to increase that debt and prolongs your discomfort.

None of this is about him anymore, he's incapacitated by his mental illness.
The desired outcome revolves entirely around your resolve to be shut of him and your ability to close that door forever.
No contact means there's nothing left to say, not even good-bye. All of his attempts to open a dialogue are met by your absolute silence.

Find a wise, trusted friend or a therapist if there's any residual itch you need scratched.
Forget the loan. If he repays you, it's a bonus. Otherwise, it's just a splinter that will fester.

Wash this man out of your hair and move on with your life.
posted by Pudhoho at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did this (without the money complication) with my ex. It worked pretty well. I wrote him an email and told him that I thought in the very long term we could probably be friends but that I needed some time to heal and that I'd be back in touch when I thought was ready. It was a yearish or so, but we were able to stay friends to some degree. The money thing isn't a big deal as long as you aren't moving in the near future. You can tell him point blank when you have the money to repay me send the check to x address.
posted by bananafish at 11:35 AM on May 24, 2013

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