How to break the break up news?
March 22, 2014 8:51 PM   Subscribe

I think my girlfriend is wonderful and funny and gorgeous and sexy and amazing and talented. But she doesn't believe that. The relationship isn't perfect, but it's fun and good. The problem is, I've come across somebody with whom it seems like it might be great, but my girlfriend will be (in her words) destroyed if I leave her. And I don't know what to do.

Anon because my girlfriend knows my account.

I've been with my girlfriend for about a year. I'm mid30s, she's end of 30s. This matters to me not at all but it matters to her a lot as she's feeling like her time is running out. We had a rocky period (during which I first met this other person) and during those fights and almost breakups it came out that she was alone for 3 years before meeting me (dates, but nothing serious), that she can't go back to her family and friends and tell them another one didn't work out, that because of her age she's mostly ignored already, that this felt like her last chance. I probably would have actually broken up with her during these discussions but I couldn't go through with it, I couldn't break her heart and destroy her life like that.

So after that rocky period I lost touch with the woman I was interested in, there were external constraints on that ever working out and clearly I couldn't pull the trigger on ending this thing with my gf. I felt it best to just stay the course and see what I could do.

And it worked, things with my girlfriend were good and I was happy. Until I saw the other woman again. And my heart leapt. It was better than I had remembered it would be. It felt like the way I want my life to be. It resonated. It felt like the beginning of a major adventure. Maybe it wouldn't actually be these things but it feels like the right thing to try.

It made me feel like missing out on this new opportunity would feel like the sort of thing I would always regret. But the idea of dropping my girlfriend when from her point of view things are going wonderfully, causing her to feel lonely, rejected, like a failure, makes me feel like absolute garbage. No, worse. It makes me feel sick to my stomach like when I think about how my mom would feel if I died for some reason. Plus a lot of my stuff is at her house so it would make the extraction...not immediate, unless I subtly moved things out in advance.

I've read Miko's script, but the problem is, it doesn't deal with the fact that we seem pretty serious, that we've had rocky times before where all that stuff would have been best said. So, I don't know how to start. I don't know when to do it. I know things are going to come up in the discussion that I won't know how to handle (she is a fierce arguer). I kind of don't even know how to end this post so I'm just going to post it.

I also had such a hard time putting a pet to sleep, this feels like the same thing. I hate inflicting hurt so much, even if it's better in the long run.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well, forgetting to anonymize the question might take care of matters for you.

I'm always a little dubious about questions where people want to break up with their SOs because they've met someone new who seems awesome and exciting and novel, and their long-term relationship doesn't seem awesome and exciting and novel. Nothing stays novel forever. But staying with someone just because you don't want to hurt them is a shitty thing to do to yourself and to them. She is not, in fact, too old to find someone who genuinely wants to be with her, rather than someone who is only with her out of some misguided sense of pity or obligation. If that really is what's going on, then you just have to rip the bandaid off and then schedule a time when she won't be at her place so you can come and get your stuff.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:01 PM on March 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

If I were your girlfriend and I read this post, I'd want you to end things with me.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 9:05 PM on March 22, 2014 [51 favorites]

You basically don't get to do this and be the good guy. You don't get to do this and not hurt her. There is no way to make that happen. You just tell her that the relationship isn't working for you. It is going to make her feel bad, and it's going to make you feel bad, and that's because it's the end of something not-terrible and that's bound to make anybody feel bad. You just say it and then you deal with the fallout. And when you go there to say it, you show up with boxes in your car to haul all your stuff out right then, which you will do without making her do all the work for it if you're anything close to a decent human being. And she will hurt and be really really angry with you.

But eventually she will hurt less, and you will feel less like suck, and you'll all be okay. The thing about the pain of doing this is that the worst of it passes relatively quickly.

I definitely wouldn't count on this other person actually being interested in being your girlfriend if you first met when you had another girlfriend, much less this other thing actually being better than what you have right now. I'm not sure you should WANT to be with anybody who's okay with being the girl you left a perfectly good other relationship for, because anybody with any sense would worry about later being the target for the same thing. But if you're going to leave, just rip the band-aid off, the world won't end.
posted by Sequence at 9:05 PM on March 22, 2014 [48 favorites]

you just have to do it. all the stuff about worrying about her feelings? you're totally doing the opposite by allowing someone great to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't love her the way she deserves to be loved.

all the hand-wringing and feeling so bad about the breakup means that not only is she going to get broken up with, she's probably going to have to console you at the same time. you need to be CLEAR with her, not send her mixed messages of "oh, but you're so awesome and i love you so much and i am so sorry and i don't want you to be mad". those might all be true feelings, but if you care about her in this you need to focus on making a clean break (not waffling, not making a million trips to see her, not insisting on staying friends, not having weird close boundaries) so she can have a crappy few months getting over you, and then go on to be with someone else.

i got together with someone who had just broken up with their partner, sort of under these same circumstances. we're super happy and are now getting married. sometimes that feeling of "YES THIS IS IT" is actually true. even if it's not, you owe it to you and to your girlfriend not to stay in a relationship that is not the right one for you both.
posted by andreapandrea at 9:12 PM on March 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

I couldn't break her heart and destroy her life like that.

You're not going to destroy her life. You're not that special -- really. And that's not an insult, it's just the plain truth: there is NO man on earth so special he warrants a woman feeling her life is destroyed just because he gets itchy fingers (and loins) and decides to try out another gal.

Your girlfriend will be fine. Do the honorable, correct thing and break up with her soon. Certainly do it before you go any further with the other woman.

If she thinks you are her Last Chance Rodeo due to her age, then she needs to get her head right in therapy. Not your problem to fix.
posted by nacho fries at 9:13 PM on March 22, 2014 [58 favorites]

It's totally reasonable to be dating someone and realize they aren't the fit you are looking for. It's a terrible idea to stay with someone out of pity, which is essentially what you are suggesting you are doing. I understand what you are trying to say with the comment about putting a pet down, but that just reinforced my sense that you think of your girlfriend as a creature whose wellbeing you are caring for, rather than a partner.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 9:13 PM on March 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I also had such a hard time putting a pet to sleep, this feels like the same thing.

Oh wow. I didn't even see this line at first. While I appreciate that you're sharing your feelings with us in an attempt to explain your perspective, this comparison, combined with your failure to initially anonymize this when you knew your girlfriend might see it (sure, perhaps a mistake, but still, one of those ones that feels like self-sabotage), makes me feel like you'd be doing her a favor by letting her move on. It seems like you're more worried about how her feelings would make you feel (and what a pain it would be to move your stuff out) than anything else. Those are bad reasons to stay.
posted by limeonaire at 9:14 PM on March 22, 2014 [36 favorites]

I agree with above, all great advice. Just wanted to chime in and say that sometimes, if you know, you know. And the sooner you tell her, the better. Yes, it sucks. And you're gonna feel like "the bad guy", but you know what's worse? Fast forward 5-10-15 years later and NEITHER of you are happy. You haven't been together long and she deserves a partner that loves her, regardless of whether she has self-esteem issues or not.

Her social circle isn't so great telling her it's too late for her to find love, and if you decide to, tell her that is one of the reasons you're breaking up now. Truthfully, that you don't feel like the relationship is a right fit for you and that you don't want to waste her time. Also, if you feel like you should break up at any time, i.e. during lots of fights or drama, you should do it then.
posted by lunastellasol at 9:19 PM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that was a kind of shocking line to read.

You know what, be the bad guy. You're not (as long as you break up with her) a bad guy, but ready yourself to take it on. Don't make a big deal of it or anything, just expect it. Tell her, you were happy with her, there's nothing wrong with her at all. But you found this connection with another person. If there were a way to avoid hurting her, you'd do it.

Be kind, but know that it's up to her to deal with this. There's nothing you can do to make it not hurt. Accept that you're just going to be the bad guy.

Slow on phone, what lunastellasol said :)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:23 PM on March 22, 2014

I hate inflicting hurt so much, even if it's better in the long run.

To stay with her if you can't give her what she needs, while pining after another woman, also inflicts a significant amount of hurt. The question, really, is what kind of hurt should be realized in your situation. I suspect the one that will allow her to be fully loved at the end of the day, with the affections of someone fully committed to her, is the kind that you should opt for.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:46 PM on March 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't know. I once met someone else and leaving the man I was with was a stupid, stupid disaster that I actually still regret to this day (five years later). I mean it - I think about it every day.

I say this not because I don't think you shouldn't leave your girlfriend but because this other woman shouldn't be involved. Too messy emotionally for everyone. You shouldn't be in contact with her for at least six months after you and your girlfriend split if you want any hope of it actually lasting in a fulfilling way. Really.

And yeah. If my boyfriend felt this way I'd be sick. It would make me so angry to have you using my secret private thoughts and fears against me. You've cast her pretty manipulatively here which is interesting.

You need to break up with her. There isn't any other answer. You've already decided to do it. Be kind. Don't involve the other woman in any way even just by invoking her name or existence. Just do it. The sooner you do it the kinder it is.

Think about how much more that pet you had a hard time putting down would have suffered if you hadn't done the right thing.

Do the right thing.
posted by sockermom at 9:49 PM on March 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

Leave her. Being with someone who is emotionally checked out, who is pretending for your sake is WORSE than being broken up with.

When someone breaks up with you, you can move the hell on.

When someone stays with you out of pity, you try to make them love you again.

For her sake, and your own, leave her as soon as possible. And things like your stuff being at her place is not an actual deterrent; that's the sort of thing that resolves itself right damn quick.
posted by RainyJay at 10:13 PM on March 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

Okay. Well, fwiw, I'm 41 and I get dates all the freaking time. It's far from over. It's only close to being over for her if she's determined it's over for her and that is 150% not your responsibility/problem/issue. Her happiness/bliss is completely not up to you and you should totally do the thing that will make you happy. Do the thing.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:23 PM on March 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

Honestly it sounds like she's manipulation you into straying with her. And you're being spineless for giving into it. Make a clean break so you can both move on.
posted by sid at 10:29 PM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. If your entire purpose is to scold the OP, please pass this up; also don't argue with other commenters. Helpful advice, please.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:12 AM on March 23, 2014

You just have to do it. There's no get out of jail free/you're not an asshole card.

On the other hand, breaking up with someone isn't really such a terrible thing to do. Be honest and kind. She's allowed to be upset and hate you, though.

I think the other woman is a red herring, but, eh, what do I know?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:52 AM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I suspect that when people stay with people because they pity them, they also do it because they believe they are not allowed to leave. But she is not your child, and not your parent, and you cannot abandon a grown woman. You are both free. I found this helpful to keep in mind in the midst of my last break-up.
posted by macinchik at 1:59 AM on March 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

There's no reason Miko's script wouldn't be the right thing to say. But that doesn't mean your girlfriend is going to believe this is the kindest breakup she ever had.

Yes, she's going to mourn the loss of the relationship (I'm guessing this is why you mention your mom and your pet, because those are other examples of mourning), but there are stages of that, and I'm confident she will eventually reach acceptance.

You're afraid she's going to say, "why didn't you bring this up before?" Maybe you should have (it might help if you can acknowledge this possibility), but there's nothing you can do to change the past. The best thing you can do now is to bring it up now. The longer you wait, the more valid her point gets, that you should have brought it up sooner.

When I thought a guy was my last hope (at a ridiculously young age, and I have had plenty of hopes since then), and he broke up with me, I don't remember what he said.

There was nothing he could have said that I wouldn't have argued with. But I do remember that his only answer to any of my arguments was "I'm sorry" or "I'm sorry, but I have to do this." Not coldly, but expressing genuine sorrow for hurting me. He didn't need to respond to the substance of my arguments, just the hurt feelings. There was something about hearing "I'm sorry" over and over that got through to me just a little.

He actually was at fault for most of what went wrong in that relationship, and he was clearly the breaker-upper as well. The kindest thing he did was accept his role as the bad guy and apologize and end it.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 3:47 AM on March 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

Please. Your girlfriend won’t be destroyed if you leave her. You should never have allowed yourself to get into such a position that you would seriously believe she would anyway. It’s creepily codependent in a bad way.

Every adult human being is a free agent. Don’t infantilize her, or yourself. Anyone can leave a relationship at any time for any reason.

One thing I really hate is when guys aren’t honest. “You’re great and sexy and amazing! But I’m more interested in this other woman totally inexplicably!” No. Be honest. You owe her that as a person, I think. Or at least, you owe her not-lying; you don’t have to tell her the whole truth, but a breakup is NOT the time to gush about how sexy and amazing she is. That’s just cruel, and somewhat oblivious. Generally women mean something like “Am I pretty/sexy/amazing enough for one man to commit to me” when they get insecure and need reassurance. Knowing that you’re pretty/sexy/amazing but not pretty/sexy/amazing ENOUGH for commitment is cold, hard comfort, believe you me, son.

Be the bad guy, you can take it. I mean, yes, be a friend to her. Treat her like a human being. Be honest but kind. But yeah, be the bad guy. You changed your mind. It happens. It sucks, but it’s life. Next time don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Also, referring to this new woman as an “opportunity” and an “adventure” is really kind of squicking me out a little. Maybe relate to women more as people on a journey with you, and less a lens through which you discover yourself? I don’t know. Definitely don't tell your current girlfriend that you're leaving her for an "opportunity" and an "adventure." Or do, but don't expect that to go over wonderfully.
posted by quincunx at 4:02 AM on March 23, 2014 [40 favorites]

Please recognize that, just as her crippling insecurity is detrimental to you both, so is your conflict avoidance.

You would have broken up with her before when things were rocky, but you didn't have the heart to do it. So you stuck with it a while longer with your heart not in it fully. Perhaps you can see how this would feed into her insecurity? And now your sunk costs (time, emotional investment) have increased, and her hurt will only be magnified from before because you've been together longer and she's ever more insecure.

How exactly did sparing her feelings by not breaking up before make things better?

How exactly does the new woman in the picture make it worth it to you to get the nerve to take the fall now? Is it more palatable to think about doing the hard thing if there is someone skating in the wings whose attentions can convince you that you're not so bad after all?

I concur with the advice to let your poor girlfriend go so she can learn her hard lesson (life doesn't end at 39, her worth is not dependent on being in a relationship)--and you tell this fascinating new creature that you need to take a breather to work on your own issues, like taking responsibility for yourself and dealing better with boundaries, and connect again in six months.
posted by Sublimity at 4:23 AM on March 23, 2014 [12 favorites]

I've read Miko's script, but the problem is, it doesn't deal with the fact that we seem pretty serious, that we've had rocky times before where all that stuff would have been best said. So, I don't know how to start.

This means you've already made the decision to break up with her, if I'm reading it correctly. You didn't do it back when you "probably would have," so do it now instead of dragging it out. It may be true that Miko's script may be better suited to a more casual relationship, but that doesn't change the overall idea, which is that the relationship's ending is non-negotiable because it's not working for you and that is not fair to either of you, no matter how much you like her as a human.

Your stuff being at her house is a red herring.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 4:45 AM on March 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I wished i had said something, anything, a few days or week before breaking it off with a guy i was dating. It might have helped him prepare and at least have something to think back on and say, "I guess i can see where this came from." That said, maybe he would have responded the way he did anyway. I basically set limits -- two conversations, one after he had some time to process; no details -- and when i had done that i moved on. Sucks however you do it but the best i could do was respect both of us by expressing the reality clearly.
posted by ramenopres at 6:19 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been you, exactly you, twice for two totally different people. FWIW, even though i'm a straight female (femme to the max), everyone who really knows me says I have the mind of a guy (just thought I'd throw that out there).

Our problem is we are over-empathetic people. Empathy is great, and it's part of what makes us more aware of our surroundings, attracts people to us way more, and makes us feel things more intensely than others would. But, it becomes detrimental to us when we attach ourselves so much to a situation that our lives/minds are needlessly suffering when, in the long run, no one will be hurt(That's the important part to us). It's harder to look at things from 10,000 feet up, so to speak, but it's my firm belief that true life and living is a balance between living in the moment and living for the future. The hard part is getting comfortable with knowing which situation calls for which type of living/decision making. A lot of this has to do with getting in touch with (if you haven't) and trusting your instinct.

Think of the times you've had a true gut instinct about something. There was a deep, unshakable feeling that, among a choice of actions, one was the correct one. It's a distinct feeling in your body and mind. If you went with that gut instinct, how was your life 1 week from the decision? 1 month? 1 year? 5 years? The 1 and 5 year ones are especially important. Are you happy? Repeat the process for each gut decision you've gone with in your life in reference to significant situations. If, a year or few down the line, you were in a better place and the other thing/party was at least headed in that direction, then hooray, you have your answer!!! Trust what your gut is telling you. Take some time to peacefully figure out what it's telling you, and that can involve detaching yourself a certain amount from the situation and truly focus on yourself.

Then we run into the hard part....that damn empathy. It's like we can feel the other thing/party's pain. This is the hardest part, and i'm still learning how to do it - you have to, as much as possible, detach from their current pain. In this situation, think about life, it's ebb and flow. You're mid 30's, so you've most likely had and been around some ups and downs in life. If not, trust me, they happen, in every area of life. The only constant thing is that time passes, and no matter what, changes. Her hurt will go away, lessen to a point where she will carry on and find another avenue to happiness. If she can't, then she most likely has a mental illness that needs to be addressed, and that is just the honest truth. It's not something you will be able to help her with until she wants to help herself NOT be like that. I speak from multiple personal experiences on that one, myself and others. If she's mentally ill, will you be HAPPY to help her get better if she wants to? Will you enjoy being with the woman on the other side? If not, then the same rule applies to if she's not mentally ill, and this is one of the hardest lessons i ever learned in life, if not the hardest, due to that empathy thing -

You are obligated to NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE, when it comes to matters of interpersonal relationships. Except your children (if they do/will exist), you made the conscious choice to make them and bring them into this world, so to some extent you'll always be responsible for them and that's just a firm belief of mine, take it or leave it (sorry, tangent)

5 years down the road, will you be happy with this woman? Don't even worry about new exciting adventure woman right now. Can you see yourself being truly happy 85-95% of the time (rough patches are always important to account for) with current woman in 1 year, 5 years? No? Then it's time to go, 100%. She will feel pain and hurt, and she will use every tool in her arsenal to convince you why you should stay, but try to notice how they all revolve around HER. I will be so lonely, no one will want me, I can't go back to my family. I, Me, I, Me. This is YOUR life. You only get one. If you're going to share it with someone, they better be putting your thoughts and feelings first, if you're putting theirs first. Let your gut decision to choose your own happiness grow and resonate and echo inside you, like your body is this massive cathedral and your choice to be happy in your future is just bouncing and echoing off all the walls in a deafening crescendo (Cathedrals have great acoustics!).

You pick a place you feel comfortable in. You stick with the facts and you hold on to them for dear life. The hysterics and the tears and and pain on both sides will come because fffff uuuuu Empathy Overdrive, but you MUST keep your eye on the other side of this bridge. Good statements to use are "I truly believe that it's not fair to either of us if one of us isn't 100% in this", "I wish I could control how my heart and my mind work, but I can't choose to feel a certain way", "I understand that i'm causing you a lot of pain, and i'm truly sorry for that", "We both deserve the opportunity to find real happiness in a relationship, and if one person in the relationship isn't happy then at that point you're forcing it, and that's not a good situation to be in for anyone", "I do care about you, just not in the way i originally did. I can't control that it changed", "I wish i had the answers to the (emotional/personal) questions you have, but I just don't, I have to listen to what my gut/heart/mind is telling me. I don't understand why you wouldn't want someone to do that - wouldn't you do the same?". If you keep running up against brick walls, unfortunately you'll have to just lay down the "I'm sorry, we're not getting anywhere with talk about it anymore, we just keep going in circles, but it'll have the same result. We'll eventually have to talk about logistics of living/our stuff, but if you need some time to yourself we can talk in "x time"." Then go. Hug if it feels right or if she would seem to benefit from it. Have a your necessities that you can take without being missed already in another location for you to stay until you can get all your things. Get your stuff out of there sooner than later, it will be better for you both.

FWIW, or posterity, or whatever, like I was you with two people. The first i was with for 6 years, lived with for 3, even got engaged, he was/is a great guy. Nothing was wrong with him, persay, that feeling of being IN love just faded for me after awhile. It happens. But i stayed for wayyyy longer than i should have because i was so concerned with how he would feel/fare if i left. I even tried to convince myself i was happy. The breakup was sad and physically painful and we both cried, I realized that it felt like i was letting go of a security blanket even though i didn't love him. Years later, he's married, happy, and on a great trajectory in life that he probably wouldn't have been on had we stayed together.

The second I was with for 6 months and got married. I thought he was a great guy, just a strong person. I was so concerned with his thoughts and feelings that i failed to see he was manipulative and coercing me into letting him control me emotionally to stay with many statements, and the ones you list your partner as feeling were among them. Even after i realized this i STILL stayed because i was scared of the pain that would be inflicted on him, even though i wasn't happy. I stumbled upon the love of my life. I now have a real, tangible, gut feeling for sure happy life ahead of me, because he gave me the belief i needed to trust my gut.

Find something, a reason, a person, anything that inspires you to trust your instinct, and do it.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 7:08 AM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking on this a lot since reading.

Your description of this other woman and my own experience suggest that she's a symptom, not the cause, of whatever is happening in your head with respect to your relationship. That is, you say it was fine until you saw her again...

Well if it was really "fine" - truly - seeing this other woman wouldn't have resonated much at all. Maybe in an "oh I had a crush on her once way," but not like this.

I have also learned that as an adult that heady new-beginning adventure brain rush is a liar (especially when it is attached to a person) and for me always spells Trouble. It's a good feeling in the moment but I have learned that it is a giant klaxon telling me that something is going wrong in my current life that needs to be remedied, not by adventure but by careful introspection and alone time - which isn't as fun as adventure in the short term but is so much more rewarding. My last adventure turned out to be a three-year relationship with an abuser and yeah, don't get me wrong, it was a hell of an adventure (a really - pardon me - fucking shitty one), but I was so wrapped up in that head rush in the beginning that I did a lot of stupid things and made a lot of bad decisions to feed my adventure-id.

This is all to say that it sounds to me like you need to spend some time alone, in your head, figuring out what you want. I also think that while its tempting to jump into a relationship with someone new (especially if you feel like you've been unhappy for awhile overall) but that will not give you the necessary space and time you need to get over this relationship.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of leaving the man that loved me and treated me like gold five years ago for a man that treated me like garbage. I haven't been able to even mentally process that breakup yet. I'm still trying to figure out and get over the baggage from my abuse. So instead every day I think of that kind man who loved me and I regret the way I treated him in a very profound way. But I'm not over it yet and I haven't forgiven myself for what I did to him.

You don't want to be thinking about this in five years. Break up with her honestly and then take time to mourn the breakup. It's the hard road, but it's the best road to take.
posted by sockermom at 7:10 AM on March 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, I know my response was super long and detailed, but your question just resonated with me. Plz feel free to memail me if you need to talk/have any questions.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 7:13 AM on March 23, 2014

If I had a dollar for every partner I've had that held their own mental wellbeing hostage in order to keep our relationship afloat, I'd have one dollar, but it would be the most emotional abuse and manipulation I've ever put up with to make money.
posted by ltisz at 7:20 AM on March 23, 2014 [16 favorites]

There's something I'm missing here. What exactly is the deal with this other woman? You're incredibly vague about your relationship with her, and it matters. Like, if you've just seen her once or twice and were just so captivated by her unique beauty and fell in love at first sight, then no, you shouldn't break up over that alone, because it's going to happen hundreds or thousands of times with hundreds or thousands of women you know equally little about. (Which doesn't mean you shouldn't break up with her, but the other woman would be a red herring.)

But if -- which seems a lot more likely, frankly -- "it was better than I remembered it would be" and "first met this other person" are euphemisms for "we hooked up or at least had the beginnings of an emotional affair, while I wasn't single" then yes, you should probably make that the main factor in your breaking up, and it'd probably be wise to be a bit more honest with yourself -- about what's really going on, and whether this is a pattern.

(In my experience if you don't "schedule" a breakup but "know it's going to happen sooner or later" it's probably going to happen on its own at the least opportune time. Like in public at a subway station, or the day before New Year's Eve. Because it feels so easy to say and you perversely want to do it even when you're not thinking about it, just to see it happen.)
posted by dekathelon at 9:02 AM on March 23, 2014

I've very confused as to how breaking up would "destroy" her life. It won't. That's a terrible reason to be with someone.

If the other woman wasn't in the picture, would you stay with your GF? Bc you love her? Or bc you are comfy and whatevs, this will do?
posted by Neekee at 9:07 AM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Miko's script is all you need here.

There is literally no way for you to walk out of this looking like a decent human being unless, as mentioned above, you then do not see, contact, interact with, or ideally even think about the other woman for at least six months.

Even then you're going to look like a jerk, because that's how it always looks when someone leaves an otherwise decent relationship.

Bite the bullet and move on, if only for her sake. If I read something like that by my boyfriend, I'd be expecting him to break up with me by the end of the day. If he didn't, he'd be finding his possessions on the front lawn.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:35 AM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I too have been your partner in a similar situation. I won't lie, it took me years to recover from the break up. But that's because I was being strung along by someone who was too chicken to say he was half-hearted. I will never forgive him for that. I even had to do the breaking up. Wanker.

You do not want to be with your current partner for the rest of your life. Let her go and find someone who does. Because someone else will love her a lot more than you can.
posted by plonkee at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2014 [12 favorites]

Regarding your relationship, "we seem pretty serious" You're not sure on that?
posted by Che boludo! at 9:45 AM on March 23, 2014

I don't think it's a good idea to include the other woman in your calculus here because it sounds like you don't know her very well. Think of a woman you know about as well as you know her. Imagine that woman comes up to you one day and says, I dumped my boyfriend of a year so we could be together! That's a lot to put on a person you don't know very well. Suppose you split with current girl, date new girl for a month and find that she's bonkers. Are you going to try to get back together with current girl?

Sometimes, we as adults have to do things that are hard. This is one of those times. Hopefully, your relationship has given you more joy than strife but that's neither here not there. You know what the right thing to do is so get out there and do it. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to get back to doing fun things.
posted by kat518 at 9:52 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

In this case, Miko's script would be dishonest. You're dumping her because you met somebody else. In the long run it is going to be easier for her if you are truthful about the motivation. Otherwise she is going to eat herself alive trying to figure out what happened. Just rip off the bandaid and do it.
posted by yarly at 12:48 PM on March 23, 2014

If you do break up with your girlfriend and things don't work out with your crush, do not go back to your girlfriend. I say this because so many times the new person isn't a good match once you get to know them. The break-up will hurt your current girlfriend, but going back to her just because things used to go pretty well -- that would guarantee more heartbreak in the future.

By the way, when you commenced your current relationship, you weren't tacitly promising to stay forever. Your girlfriend was insecure and emotionally fragile when you met her; you didn't cause her to be that way. Do what's right for yourself.

If you stay, get therapy to learn how to manage conflict. Avoiding arguments and change is a good way to doom even the best relationship.
posted by wryly at 2:40 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I probably would have actually broken up with her during these discussions but I couldn't go through with it, I couldn't break her heart and destroy her life like that.

It's like that old saying-- the best time to break up was then; the second best time is now. Just do it. People have made good comments about her age and length of the relationship and your other women, but just the fact that you're not feeling it is enough. Stop wasting both your time.
posted by BibiRose at 2:57 PM on March 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seriously, she'll be fine without you. Don't pretend she'll be "destroyed" over your absence. It's highly unlikely.
posted by discopolo at 11:34 AM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

And you also have to recognize that being sad and slightly devastated is normal, but I guarantee a year from now or sooner, she'll be better than ever.

If you were honest with yourself, you'd recognize that you're mainly padding your own ego with the whole idea that she'll be destroyed over your absence in her life.
posted by discopolo at 11:38 AM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't have to feel as though the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You don't have that much power over her. And if, in her grief and anger, she temporarily thinks you do, then understand that with time, maturity, growth and possibly therapy, she will eventually heal from that misconception.

Your love does not make or break another person. You are not responsible for her pain or her happiness. She will have to learn this the hard way.
posted by Gray Skies at 12:18 PM on March 29, 2014

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