Did I just break up with myself?
June 2, 2013 4:31 PM   Subscribe

I recently had a very confusing break-up conversation that I am having a lot of trouble decoding.

As background, I had been seeing this man for a few months. I am early twenties, he is early thirties, we play sports together and generally run in the same circles.

In the months we were together, we had a lot of fun and seemed to be unusually compatible. However, due (primarily) to the age gap, we came to terms with the fact that we were probably looking for different things long-term. (He is looking for "the" relationship; I am not.) However, neither of us was willing to pull the plug, because we were enjoying being together so much.

Fast forward to this week. After a game, he asked me if I wanted to stay over at his house and I did. When we got to his house, we started talking about the summer and how our schedules would be different, and hopefully we would have more time to spend together.

I brought up my concerns about our relationship's expiration date, and how I was wondering if it might be smarter to end it now rather than throw ourselves deeper into something only to have a messier breakup on the other end.

We talked about it for about half an hour, and he said that he thought it was worth it to stick it out-- neither of us know what the future holds, and we want to be together now, so why worry?

This made sense to me, and I told him that I was comfortable staying together and seeing where things might go.

About an hour later, while we were watching a movie, he paused it and said, "I think you're right. It sucks and I wish it were different, but I think we should just be friends."

I asked if he was sure, then left. We haven't spoken in a few days. Despite knowing that, logically, this is probably for the best, I am really hurt and miss him quite a bit

My question is two-fold:
1.) Is it possible that I pushed him into wanting to break up?
2.) How can I better handle relationship conversations like this in the future? I want to be able to frame my concerns not as "I want to break up because ________," but "_____ is something I've been thinking about a lot, how do you feel about it?"

(sad breakup music would also be appreciated.)
posted by karminai to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1) Yes
2) It seems like you handled it just fine. You helped him to realize you guys wanted different things out of a relationship and you seem to have both handled it reasonably and maturely.

Now, you're obviously sad because you broke up. But here's the thing; sometimes breaking up is the right thing to do even if you don't want to. Just because he changed his mind after giving it consideration doesn't mean you did something wrong. It's just as likely it means you did something right.
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on June 2, 2013 [29 favorites]

I think you handled it just fine although it is possible you pushed him off the cliff. So what? Didn't you get what you thought was best?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:40 PM on June 2, 2013

Of course, with the caveat of being an internet stranger, I would say you did initiate it. Just putting myself in his position, as a person around his age, if someone basically said, "Maybe we should break-up because I am not ever going to commit to you," I would reply, "Yes, we should." But you did the right thing if you don't want something serious. If you're like me, you'll get all sad and call him back up and then everyone will have their heads messed with, so don't be like me.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:51 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am really hurt and miss him quite a bit

This is just a thing, it doesn't mean you made the wrong choice or should do something different. When you spend time with people you like, and that comes to an end, it sucks. Might be a boyfriend, might be a coworker, might be a friend moving away to do the most awesomest thing ever; you'll still be sad that they're not going to be the presence in your life they were previously.

I think you did this exactly right. If you feel like a relationship doesn't have a mutually agreeable path, you should bring that up - a lot of people have a terrible time with that, spend years with people they shouldn't be with, give up their dreams just because they can't have that conversation. Go you!

Yeah, so you brought the situation to a head. There's no foul in that. It sounds like you were kind and reasonable and he was kind and reasonable. It even kind of sounds like he was the one afraid to put a pin in his feelings at first (and that's understandable if it hadn't been as much on his mind as yours), though he got his head wrapped around it pretty quickly.

Allow yourself to have whatever feelings you have. Wallow a little, if you need to. Then dust yourself off, pat yourself on the back for doing a hard thing well, and go on with your life and whatever opportunities come next.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:51 PM on June 2, 2013 [13 favorites]

I totally went through the exact same thing when I was your age with a man 14 years my senior. We did the on and off thing for like two years. I dug him so hard but I wasn't ready to settle down and I think he was looking for something more serious and long-term. It think it probably is better to end things now before feelings run even deeper. Just appreciate it for what it was, use it to inform what you want from future relationships, and call it a day.
posted by greta simone at 5:48 PM on June 2, 2013

Is it possible that I pushed him into wanting to break up?

No. You pushed him to end a relationship that he wasn't happy with. If he were happy with it, he wouldn't have taken the out that you gave him.

How can I better handle relationship conversations like this in the future? I want to be able to frame my concerns not as "I want to break up because ________," but "_____ is something I've been thinking about a lot, how do you feel about it?"

That sounds about right. The key is not to say right at the outset, "Hey, here's this thing that I'm totally about to break up with you over unless you stop."

Congratulations. I know, it sounds weird, but you ended a relationship without having to get a restraining order or medical attention or a new wardrobe because someone burned the house down. You won that relationship. It wasn't a flawless victory, but you didn't lose.
posted by Etrigan at 5:49 PM on June 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Actually, the way I am reading this, it triggered a little yellow flag for me. It seems like you were pretty clear about what you wanted and stated it honestly (go you!) and then he talked you down, only to turn around and close the door abruptly. Did he maybe just want to be the one in control of the breakup and/or have the last word? It's kind of a bummer that this ended up causing you to doubt your feelings.

Anyway, I wouldn't try to read too much into this because honestly, even if a person is great and fun and sexy, you shouldn't get too entangled with someone you don't feel aligned with. Trying to avoid hurting feelings and/or this weird dump-then-get-dumped scenario could lead to dragging things on much longer than they should.

You did good, and it's also okay to feel a little wistful or regretful right now. It's a two ships passing in the night kind of thing, which is always a little harder than the obvious incompatibilities.
posted by annekate at 5:56 PM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sometimes people think they're not ready to meet THE ONE and then they do anyway, and happily change life-direction and settle down. This guy may have thought that might happen with you, but your conversation that night made it clear that wasn't happening. It took a bit of time to sink in w/him, hence the movie & delay before he ended it. But it ended well & like etrigan said, you guys won this one.
posted by headnsouth at 6:04 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is my reading. You get along well, have fun together, like each other. If you wanted more similar things from the relationship, you'd probably still be together. However, he is looking for "the" relationship, while you are looking for someone who is fun to be with right now, but not necessarily "the one." If I'm misunderstanding the set up, you can stop here and ignore the rest of this post.

So, you would be happy to keep dating, but don't want to make any big commitments. He would like to keep dating with the understanding that you're both moving toward a bigger commitment. It would be fine to stay together now, except that there's the potential that in a few months or a year, if things still going well, he will want to get serious (get engaged? move in together? become blood siblings? etc.), and you will want to keep things more casual. That would probably be painful for both of you.

I think he broke up now because he realized that, although it's painful to break up now, it's less painful than it would be later. I *suspect* that in the hour-long interval, what you said about what you want sank in.

I think your option now is, if you really like this person and think that in X amount of time (6 months, 1 year, etc.) you think you might be willing to make a more serious commitment, you can let him know that and see if it changes his mind about breaking up. If you really think you can't foresee that, then it's fair to leave things as they are.
posted by pompelmo at 6:09 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Music first (if it's your taste): Province by TV on the Radio, Cruel by St. Vincent, Heart of Chambers by Beach House, Lazuli by Beach House, Going On by Gnarls Barkley. Those got me through some seriously rough times!

It sounds like he does want to look for something long term and that he was thinking that he might want something long term with you. It sounds like maybe he figured you definitely do not want something long term so he decided to cut his losses. It sounds like you could probably patch it up still, but it might require you saying, "You know, I thought about it more, and I think I really do want to explore where things go." Or something like that.
posted by mermily at 6:16 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you did great. You were honest and ethical with him. You could've easily just let the relationship continue light 'n' breezy, since you are the one who isn't looking for "the" relationship. Doing so would've kept him from seeking what he is really after.

Doing the right thing sometimes hurts, a lot. That doesn't mean it was the wrong thing, or that you handled it the wrong way.

From what you described of your opening of the discussion, you didn't give an ultimatum or force his hand in any way. You just put your cards on the table in a forthright way, and then allowed him to react as he saw fit. Neither of you behaved in a mean, regrettable way.

I think that's about as good as it gets when it comes to breakups.
posted by nacho fries at 6:24 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Re: sad breakup music -- Lonelily by Damien Rice
posted by roomwithaview at 6:34 PM on June 2, 2013

You did great!

Listen to sunny happy music. Nothing bad happened here!!

Ask for songs about the anticipation of summer adventures!!
posted by jbenben at 7:46 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sad breakup song: Don't Speak.
posted by alms at 9:06 PM on June 2, 2013

1.) "Is it possible that I pushed him into wanting to break up?"

Yes. That's exactly what happened. He broke up with you because he likes you enough to not want to hurt you, even if it meant the end of a good, but temporary, thing.

2.) "How can I better handle relationship conversations like this in the future? I want to be able to frame my concerns not as "I want to break up because ________," but "_____ is something I've been thinking about a lot, how do you feel about it?""

It sounds to me like you handled it perfectly. It sucks that it ended, but you got what you wanted... a non-difficult breakup rather than a super-painful fully entrenched relationship breakup.

Perhaps the real problem here is that you didn't really want to break up at all. Were you hoping to talk him into a relationship? Try to figure out what you really wanted. If a relationship with him is what you really want, you should give it another shot. On the other hand, if what you really wanted was exactly what you said - "if it might be smarter to end it now rather than throw ourselves deeper into something only to have a messier breakup on the other end." - well... that's what you got. An easier breakup now rather than a really difficult one later. Not that it doesn't suck now... because, it does.

...deep in your heart, what do you want?
...how realistic is that?

Let the answers to those two questions serve as your guide.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 9:37 PM on June 2, 2013

"Did I just break up with myself?"

You chose yourself. Here, you chose yourself. It shows a high degree of wisdom and maturity. Honor your decision, the sadness that goes with it, and hold yourself in the high esteem that you deserve. You chose yourself.

Love is about choosing yourself, over and over. Sometimes, other people get invited to the party.

posted by simulacra at 9:52 PM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you handled the conversation fine. I'm not sure why you walked out though.
posted by Dansaman at 10:01 PM on June 2, 2013

No. You brought up a concern, he thought about it for an hour and agreed with you.
posted by gjc at 6:14 AM on June 3, 2013

Did I just break up with myself?

I'm not sure how you would have written this question if you did.

Since you have doubts, consider whether you and yourself want the same things, and think about what you can do to recommit to yourself.

If you and yourself don't want the same things, please go to counseling rather than just deciding to break up.
posted by yohko at 8:56 AM on June 3, 2013

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