Help me pull the plug on this relationship
February 11, 2015 9:48 AM   Subscribe

AskMe, you're good at telling people when to end it. Help me get it into my head that my relationship is over.

My girlfriend and I broke up in January after almost 3 years. We're currently in a protracted exchange about whether or not we want to get back together. I'm heartbroken, I love her and I want her back. She's not sure and is wavering around on a daily basis. This is messing with me and I am losing perspective- I jump when she says she wants to be together, and I am devastated when she says things like:

"I don't think i have it in me to give it another shot"
"I don't know if I can say that [our relationship] was good for me as a person."
"I don't know if I want to make the commitment [to renew and regenerate the relationship] with you now"
"Some days I feel that it's for the best that this is over"

If I was my friend, I'd tell me that when someone says things like that, the relationship is over. Yet I can't stop clinging to the shreds of hope that she's putting out while she's wavering (she still loves me, she's loved being with me, she's scared and confused, the fact that her feelings change so rapidly). I feel like if I had any self respect or shred of integrity I would stop the wavering for her and tell myself that I need to be with someone who knows they want to be with me too. But, I don't seem to be able to give up on my love. I'm so lost. Please give me your sage breakup wisdom and help me stop this misery and start to rebuild my life.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Repeat this over and over... the belief that we each have only ONE soul-mate is pretty much cultural BS.

You can, and will, connect with a number of people over your life time with whom you have a strong affinity, romantic and otherwise. Do not spend your time with someone that is willing to waffle this much at the expense of your well being..

Move on, friend....
posted by HuronBob at 9:51 AM on February 11, 2015 [31 favorites]

Tell her to get in touch with you when she's 100% sure one way or the other. Then don't contact her while you throw yourself into other hobbies, activities, friends etc. Keep yourself too busy to dwell on her decision. Love can and does change into affection and fond memories.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:51 AM on February 11, 2015 [24 favorites]

Just go no-contact with her; insist on it. Look at this post when you waver.

Not only is she being selfish with the back and forth; some of the things she is saying are awful. It sounds like she is probably in a fairly bad headspace herself, to be all over the place like this but it is not good for either of you. I'll bet anything that if you did get together again, it would just be one of those temporary reunions that prove you were right to break up in the first place.

Meanwhile, it's been a month or less. The way you are feeling is normal. Just try to rack up some no-contact time because talking to her is just setting you back.
posted by BibiRose at 9:59 AM on February 11, 2015 [16 favorites]

Go no contact with her. Even if you do get back together, the problems will still be there. She knows you're not right for her, but she doesn't want to be alone, she misses you because you were an important part of her life, she's lonely, it's hard to break up and as much as you love each other, it's never going to be right.

You need to get over her, but you can't because she won't go away. The only thing worse than this is to keep doing it over and over for years and years.

Tell her, "Louise, I love you, and I'd want to get back with you no matter what. But you're right, and in my heart of hearts, I know it to be true. As much as we love each other, we're not good partners together. I don't give you what you need. I wish we could remain friends, and perhaps in the future that would be a possibility, but right now the back and forth is too painful for me. Please, let's not contact each other for at least six months. We both need to get perspective on this, and we can't do that, when we're dancing around the possibility of getting back together. In the next six months we can explore life unpartnered. We can determine what things make us happy, we can go out with friends, get new hobbies, learn to cook new food and do things other than be in a bad relationship. If, in six months, we feel like we want to revisit, we'll each have the distance and the independence to evaluate what we have fairly. Let's make a date for August 14th. And let's not see each other until then."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2015 [21 favorites]

You rock, you are caring and sensitive. You are a good, no scratch that a great person. Now as a bona fide, certified, country fried internet stranger I give you full permission to go forth, DMTFA, and move on with a happy fulfilling life. So it is said, so it is done.
posted by chasles at 10:02 AM on February 11, 2015 [18 favorites]

She is messing with your head.
Hop on the bus, Gus. Make a new plan, Stan.

You need to let it go. Don't give her the power to string you along.
posted by Flood at 10:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [10 favorites]

Yes, you need to give her space to figure out what she wants. She can't miss you if you don't go away (and vice versa), and it's not helping either of you that she's not sure and you keep grasping at wisps of hope and being devastated when they don't pan out.

OTOH, if she decides she doesn't miss you, you both need to get on with your life. You both need to see what life without the other is like. Who knows, you may like it. It just takes some time to form new habits when you've been with someone so long.

Detach completely - that means no contact whatsoever, no stalking, no spying, no asking friends about each other - either with or without discussing it with her, and set yourself a time limit. After, say, a month or three with no contact, either re-evaluate this decision or move on.
posted by caryatid at 10:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is tough. The big question is what generated the breakup and her feelings of uncertainty about whether this relationship is good for her as a person. Because I agree with her that love isn't enough -- a relationship that feels undermining and/or staying with someone with whom one has lost trust isn't workable.

So, I'd say unless you can take the rather enormous emotional risk of dissecting your breakup and her uncertainty about renewing the commitment, and making necessary changes to your own behaviors, you need to move on. Even if you are willing to take those risks, she may not have enough trust in you and the relationship to try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. In which case you similarly have to swallow hard and move on.

Figure out how much, possibly fruitless and hurtful, additional work you want to put into trying to resurrect things. Be ready for it all to fail. Otherwise, be real with yourself and accept that sometimes things don't work and the fact that they didn't work is enough to prevent ever restoring functionality. You can learn from this for your next relationship, of course.
posted by bearwife at 10:05 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

She's not sure if the relationship was good for her as a person, whether she can commit to making the effort to renew the relationship, or whether it's best to have ended things, so if she decides she does have it in her to, "give it another shot," you'll be on the hook for convincing her it's good, right, and worthwhile.

That sounds miserable. Do the no-contact thing, and believe that you can be with someone who doesn't need you to constantly prove that you're good together, because both parties will know it when it happens.

In the meantime, take care of yourself.
posted by whoiam at 10:12 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

If I was my friend, I'd tell me that when someone says things like that, the relationship is over. Yet I can't stop clinging to the shreds of hope that she's putting out while she's wavering (she still loves me, she's loved being with me, she's scared and confused, the fact that her feelings change so rapidly).

I expect you'd also tell a friend that she's being cruel, however unintentionally, exactly because she keeps wavering like that. I agree with the suggestion to go no contact. I've said before that I always preferred maintaining a friendship with my exes if possible; it isn't always, but one of the things I learned that makes it possible is having some distance and closure. Please be kind to yourself and provide it even if she won't.

I'd also like to echo the first comment that having only one soulmate is artificial nonsense.
posted by Gelatin at 10:22 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

Go no-contact for two months - call it a sanity break - and you will have a much clearer perspective on why you're doing this.

It's just fear of the unknown. It's not love, or at least it's not the kind of love that means you SHOULD be together. If you would give your brain a few weeks to go through withdrawal you will understand that.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:23 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

"I don't think i have it in me to give it another shot"
"I don't know if I can say that [our relationship] was good for me as a person."
"I don't know if I want to make the commitment [to renew and regenerate the relationship] with you now"
"Some days I feel that it's for the best that this is over"

These are the sort of things I might've said in my past when I felt a lot of pressure from the other party to resume a relationship I was not on board with, but I didn't want to hurt the other person or be harsh or mean with them.

In other words, she broke up with you, yet you two are discussing getting back together. Why are you discussing getting back together? Because you want to. She doesn't really want to, but she feels she needs to listen to you to "be fair" or whatever.

Stop talking to her. Take the pressure off her. Move on.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:29 AM on February 11, 2015 [28 favorites]

Yup, no contact time. 1 month is not long enough.
1 year may not be long enough. Who knows?

My very first comment on this site was when my ex had just left me, and I wanted no contact but wasn't sure how to make it happen. The comment right below mine had what I think is the right answer-- and pretty clearly, you're not there yet. Wait to make contact again until you are.

How long did it take for me? I dunno, exactly, but it happened. (A little rockily with some FWB issues along the way, but today Mr. Nat and I have a lovely relationship, and I still talk to my ex occasionally and fondly but not often.)

(also, uh, lonefrontranger *totally* called my being a mathy person .. oops, I guess my physicist self was showing, again)
posted by nat at 10:47 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Relationships are about commitment. It is two people saying no matter what, we're better together. The sum of us is worth enduring times that aren't perfect. Because you know what? In any relationship, there come times when things aren't great. Someone gets sick, money gets tight, kids cause drama, someone gets a crush on someone else, someone has PMS, your job relocates you to BFE, someone takes up knitting. I mean, we're people. We're on a journey that has ups and downs. So, IMHO, the THING that makes a relationship work IS commitment. Not love.

So, this may be too obvious, but, Dude, she's not committed. She does not believe that you + her = better. And I don't think you do either. This was a season in your life. It has ended. Mourn it. Then look forward to finding that person who fights to be with you as much as you fight to be with her.
posted by slipthought at 10:49 AM on February 11, 2015 [8 favorites]

If she can't tell you the specific reasons why she's wavering (doesn't like your family dynamics, worried you won't agree on finances, don't have the same outlook on kids...) then her reasons are likely a vague and nebulous feeling and that won't change. Her feelings won't change. She won't "suddenly" come to see the light that you + her = awesome. For her, you+me=well..... uh.... and that's just not good enough. Something is bothering her about your relationship and she wants to be out of it.

I'm sorry. Say to yourself, despite my feelings for her, leaving is the best option. Then stick to it. It's the best for both of you (it really is).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:58 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Disengage, fill your life with things that make you happy. Maybe she'll get to a place where she can better communicate her needs to you and you can re-engage, who knows? Either way you will be fine because you are centered on tending to your own needs.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:02 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Get a hold of the deceptively cheesy looking but actually very wise (and even amusing) 'it's called a break up because it's broken' and hibernate with it under a duvet for a couple of days. It really did save my ass after a hellish break up, and I'm not big on those kind of books. People come and they go. It is excruciating agony for a while sometimes, then one day it starts being less so.
posted by tanktop at 11:18 AM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

"I don't know if I can say that [our relationship] was good for me as a person."

If you want to beat yourself over the head with any of her comments, this would be the one to use. She's telling you that the dynamic between the two of you caused her more harm than good.

That's not how you want a person you care about to describe their relationship. It's not how anyone would describe a relationship that's worth saving. It points to the situation being unfixable because the core problem is inherent to the way you two interact. You and she would both need to be different people for the dynamic to work... so finding actual new people is a pretty reasonable goal!

Find someone who makes your life easy, not protracted and strung-out and heartbreaking and disappointing.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:27 AM on February 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

The misery you're feeling is because she's not adult enough to cut the cord. She's stringing you along and messing with your head. You have to be the adult right now and cut this person *who is causing you misery* out of your life. Don't seek to be in a relationship with someone who will actively hurt you in this manner.

Then check out soyou' It's for dump-ers as well as dump-ees.
posted by Solomon at 11:30 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you have to persuade someone into being with you, it's not going to be a good relationship for either of you. You obviously know what you need to do.

You know the old idea... Let her free and if she comes back, it was meant to be. If she doesn't, it wasn't. Stay out of her life unless she initiates.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:33 AM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

You do need to stop talking to her. I know this probably is not what you want to do or hear. But she has broken up with you. She has broken up with you! Other things might be uncertain, but that isn't. Hanging around and begging, jumping when she says jump...doesn't that feel awful? And it won't work! Get some control over your life. Tell her you're going no contact. I would not send an overly long letter. She knows why. Then do it. You might have to mark days off on a calendar for awhile so you can mark time concretely. You're going to feel better if you do this. Don't talk to her again even if she tries to communicate. The only way you should break this is if she is really sincere about getting back together, and you'll know she's sincere because she'll have concrete suggestions on how to put things back together. You can do this. Get ahold of yourself. Cling to your self-respect.
posted by amodelcitizen at 12:05 PM on February 11, 2015

This relationship is over. It has died. When someone dies, we generally have a funeral or a ceremony marking their life and their passing. Do that for the relationship. Have a ceremony (by yourself), say a few words, grieve for a time and move on.
posted by 724A at 12:07 PM on February 11, 2015

I think it just takes time and some no contact to get it through your head. You can't MAKE it happen, as much as you might want to. I think the more you try to force it, or go over and over things she said, the harder it will be.
posted by zutalors! at 12:23 PM on February 11, 2015

This is one of those things that sounds--and feels--terribly complicated, but is simple as can be.

She doesn't want to be with you. And I am very sorry, because that KILLS. But why isn't she letting go? She does still care for you, she doesn't want to be the bad guy, you are pressuring her, she wants to delay the pain of the breakup, she foolishly hopes to cling to what worked while ignoring what didn't work, she doesn't want to be alone, she is trying to force herself to want to be with you but it's not working so she thinks maybe you will say some magic thing that will change everything, she is waiting for you to tire of the back-and-forth, who knows. (A less charitable reading would be that she is subconsciously getting something out of the control and drama of stringing you along, but I don't know enough to say that.)

The reason doesn't matter. She is done. Don't try to negotiate for her commitment. You deserve to be with someone who, at minimum, knows she wants to be with you.

So I'm afraid I agree with the consensus here; you have to go no-contact for a good long while. Like until you well and truly stop wanting to contrive excuses to contact her. This part is hard but on-and-off contact will protract the grief even more. Be strong. Gather up your pride and take your life back.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned that I want to warn you about is this: it's HIGHLY likely she will try to contact you after you have cut her off while you are still vulnerable, and that is when you must be very, very strong and stick to your no-contact rule. Because nothing will have changed and this will just prolong and intensify the heartache for you.

Heartache is so hard, but you know what's harder than letting go this once? Having your heart broken over and over and over again. You have the opportunity here to protect yourself and you should take it.

I'm sorry. Let time do its wound-healing thing here.
posted by kapers at 12:33 PM on February 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

Here's the other thing I have to say about dealing with all the time while you get over this. I've been getting over a breakup recently and basically what I say to myself is "one day, I'll look back on this and be happy for me and for him and everything will be great and it won't hurt so much and I won't feel all those twinges of suck thinking about what he's doing and who he might be with & etc. Today is not that day."

I just feel like from the outside there's such a strong cultural pressure to just get over it already and that it takes time, but all those well meaning people aren't the ones sitting there with your feelings, especially when you're alone. For me, Today is Not That Day is a pretty good mantra - I'm gonna do the thing, I'm just not there yet. That might help you.
posted by zutalors! at 1:20 PM on February 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

You'll know it's over when you're on a date with her and her new boyfriend keeps interrupting.

Srsly tho, she's jerking you around while she looks for someone "better". Not only is she not a good match for you, she's not a good person. Period. Full stop. Run the other way and DTMFA.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2015

You will be absolutely miserable if you convince her to get back together with you, since you'll be spending all your time waiting for the axe to fall again.
posted by clawsoon at 1:42 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I like the proposal to just tell her to get back at you when she knows 100 percent, because honestly it's not good for either of you to dither around like this. She probably won't get back to you, and if she does and is still vacillating you need to remember your prior boundary and not engage.

Spending some time on making sure you're getting your needs met will pay off in the long term no matter what happens with her, and she's being at best an oblivious jackass. Just repeat, "I'ma do me for a while" and let it roll.
posted by klangklangston at 1:56 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can't make someone love you. You deserve someone who is 100% on board.

I know it feels like you're missing a limb without her.

It. Will. Pass.

The sooner you tear the band-aid off and go no-contact, the sooner you will come out on the other side.
posted by dry white toast at 2:46 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

OP: When I read your post, it reminded me of my three-year relationship. The one which - despite making huge mistakes of my own that I ended up whole-heartedly taking responsibility for - ended after three years and three occasions where we broke up and made up.

My ex would say almost verbatim what your ex is saying. In his case, he knew deep down it wouldn't work. Hell, I knew deep down it wouldn't work, yet I begged and pleaded with him to take me back. Then I went no-contact, and that scared him, and we tried to make it work. Nope, fell apart. It took me breaking up with him for both of us to finally acknowledge we were wrong for each other.

My point here is that what we thought was love was something else. The fear of being alone, the fear of not having certain things in common with someone else, familiarity, not wanting to throw away time invested... who knows. It made him go back and forth, vacillate, waffle, etc.

You're in the early gut-wrenching throes of a breakup and life looks bleak right now. But in the infrequent and ephemeral instances of logical optimism you may have, know this: you two are not meant to be. If in three years you haven't figured it out, chances are you won't ever. And her waffling means she on some level - whether or not she even knows it and her vacillation is genuine and not a gesture - has understood this, processed it, and is attempting to move on. Let her. Neither of you deserve this prolonged suffering.
posted by Everydayville at 3:57 PM on February 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Be prepared, when you go no contact or otherwise decide you're ready to do the hard work of moving on, there's a good chance that will be the moment when she decides she wants to be with you. I've been there.
posted by singlesock at 6:09 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

For me it has helped to disambiguate ending a relationship from ending the needs that a relationship meets. Ending the former does not imply the latter, it just means that those needs get to be met in other places and from new directions (including my own wise mind).
posted by macinchik at 10:05 PM on February 11, 2015

I am devastated when she says things like...

Is it possible you are unintentionally communicating to her the idea that she must decide the fate of the relationship for both herself and you? She might dither longer if she thinks she's responsible for her decision and yours.

You could tell her she can leave and think things through (because she can). You can also tell her that if she changes her mind you can't guarantee that you'll be in the same let's try it again place (because you can't). Right now that's what you want; you can't promise you'll want this in few weeks or months. Maybe you will, maybe you won't.

Simply stating these facts as they are might help free both of you from the unnecessary and unrealistic burden of being absolutely, positively, without doubt, dead certain that the relationship is over. You've been together 3 years, you broke up in January, we're not even half-way through February. It's probably too soon to expect either of you to be unequivocally sure about anything.

I feel like if I had any self-respect or shred of integrity I would stop the wavering for her and tell myself that I need to be with someone who knows they want to be with me too.

I'd frame this differently. Approaching this as you wavering for her will indeed feel shitty and pathetic. It gives her more control over you than she really has and makes this more about her than it really is.

You're not waiting for her to make up her damn mind so you can make up yours. You know you need to walk away and you're not ready to walk away. That's it.

This doesn't mean you're a chump - the strung to her stringing. It means you're not ready. I suspect too that her dithering comes from a similar not ready place. She’s just closer to it than you.

It's rare for two people in a long term relationship to arrive at the same level of acceptance that the relationship is over at the same time. It's painful as hell to be the one farther away from that acceptance, but there's no shame in it unless you decide to put it there.

Try to look at this as a conflict between what you know and what you're ready to do. So long as you keep your focus there you have some measure of control over how this will go down and how much this will nip at your self-respect.
posted by space_cookie at 2:31 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I went through something like this. What I ended up telling myself was that it didn't matter that a lot of the relationship was wonderful, that the problems seemed (to me) like things that could be worked through etc, there is one thing that is absolutely non negotiable required (not sufficient but indispensable) for a relationship to 'work', and that is both people really wanting to be in it. And we didn't have that and if you don't have that the rest doesn't really matter.

It was hard. It took a long time to get to properly broken up and I still have days when it's hard. But overall---it is so much better for my heart and mind to be alone than to be with someone with deep ambivalence about the relationship. Good luck!
posted by Salamandrous at 7:48 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

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