is it time to give up on him?
May 10, 2015 10:04 PM   Subscribe

I started writing this anon question in December. I don't think I actually posted it, but I kept the text file. basically, I think I need to break up with my long-term boyfriend, but I don't know how to go about it. Please confirm/deny, and help me to do this

We got together 5 years ago. He was handsome and intriguing, it was very difficult to coax information out of him about his personal life, and I felt honored that he would confide in me. I ended up cheating on my then-bf with him, just a few months before old bf was planning to propose. At the time, I was in college and thought it was silly that I would go through life with only one steady partner. I wanted something fresh and interesting.

Me and the new guy moved in together 4 years ago, in a different state. I thought he had a good circle of friends and connections and a good future in a fun industry.

Now, I've come to realize that his mysteriousness was a way to disguise the humbleness and normalcy of his own family, and the mediocreness of his own affairs.

His circle of friends have dissipated; his job prospects in the industry have dried up. He hasn't been employed for over a year, and only worked about 3-4 months in the last 2 years.

I have been growing my professional career, and sometimes he makes fun of being a corporate/startup type. I want to earn enough money to buy a home, to raise a family. Instead, I've been supporting the two of us for basically 2 years now. It's not difficult with my job, but his share of the bills has racked up to about $8000 unpaid... And I resent him for it.

I often think about the ex I cheated on, and regret so bitterly that I threw away such happiness for the sake of excitement and novelty. My only consolation is that he is (afaik) happily married and not too haunted by my misdeeds.

Like I said, I started writing this in December. I've known for a long time that he is not a good long-term prospect... but he keeps melting my heart and drawing me back in. Christmas Eve, we had a fight, in which I explained that I didn't care for how he sits in the apartment all day ripping game sprites or watching LPs on the computer, and that I wanted him to actually do those things he claims he wants to do (be an artist, be a game designer, be a translator) but never follows through on.

In February, that wasn't happening, and I got so frustrated I started secretly going to a therapist. She's been very straight forward with me that I'm not going to change him... and yet I can't bring myself to pull the cord.

when we had been together for maybe a year, I was suffering from intense anxiety and imposter syndrome. We had some tearful arguments, and he told me that if we broke up, he didn't think he could live, and he definitely would never be able to love again. That sobered me up; why would he put that kind of burden on me?

He's repeated that line, that he'll never love anyone again if I leave him several time since.

I've been asking him for months now to apply to jobs. Easy office jobs, even if they're minimum wage. I'm tired of being his only life outside of the internet. I want him to contribute. I want to stop feeling like he's in my way. He's applied to maybe 1 job? And it took him a week to work up the nerve to send it in. Any time I ask 'are you going to apply today?' 'I will definitely try' 'by tomorrow'. I'm sick of hearing this bullshit. I was sick of hearing it back in December, and he tearfully told me 'I'm sorry you can't trust me, and I understand it; I will make it better' and he HASN'T.

in our latest fight, I was complaining that he was impatient with me not wanting to watch him play a video game that I didn't even ask to see him play. He put the blame on me for not communicating better and say 'I don't want to watch'. I dread him asking me.

Recently, I had an employee who was much the same way. Always made excuses, rarely accomplished anything. I actually dreaded going to work and took the stairs to avoid being stuck in the elevator with them. They were fired this week, and the relief was immense. I told my bf about it and how ineffectual they had been, and he said my attitude was 'scary'. I think he was reading between the lines and applying my description of the person to himself.

How can I do this? He's dependent on me and has no friends left in the area.

How can I do this? He is very prominent in one of the online communities I frequent, and I don't want to have to leave everyone else.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
told me that if we broke up, he didn't think he could live, and he definitely would never be able to love again. That sobered me up; why would he put that kind of burden on me?

He'll be fine. He may be emotional but give him enough time and he'll be fine. You might be taking it a little too realistically because you're flattered by the idea but he probably knows it's not true.
posted by discopolo at 10:13 PM on May 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you simultaneously desire his approval and are afraid of his criticism, ('I dread him asking me' etc) and yet don't respect or value who he is. This is who he is: unemployed, video playing, loner, co-dependent with you. This is who you are: fearful of the responsibility for following through on what you want - a career, home, stability and family - through apparently abandoning him, and leaving him to be himself, unfettered by your disappointment in him.

In therapy, you could maybe have a chat about why leaving even an unsatisfactory attachment is difficult. Your previous relationship was ended in 'catastrophic event' (cheating) and for this one you are vacillating, storing resentments and not knowing how to exit. It's okay to want different things and it's okay to leave without a precipitating catastrophic event like cheating, loud fights and dread. It's not working, you have the money and job to leave and he's an adult who can look after himself.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:21 PM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Two things are conspicuously absent from this question: first, any (and I do mean any) sign that you like, let alone are in love with, this person; second, any explanation of the reasons why you want to stay.

So, why DO you want to stay?

My guess is that there is something about the way the two of you interact and/or fight that has drained away a big chunk of your self-esteem, and you feel dependent on him and/or like you won't find anyone else if you leave him.

Go. Life is short. You deserve better than this, and you are more than capable of finding better than this.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 10:23 PM on May 10, 2015 [12 favorites]

I started off reading this question pretty unimpressed - you were disappointed because you thought he was intriguing and he turned out to be "humble" and "normal"? No. Being unemployed for 2 years and only applying to 1 job isn't normal or humble - This guy is non-functional.

He sounds really depressed - no friends, broke, doesn't do anything but stay home and play video games? But that's not your fault, it's not your fault he's not trying to seek help, and it isn't your fault if he claims he can "never love again" if you leave him - which is a very manipulative thing to say, and certainly not true, it's only true if he makes it true. If he doesn't have friends in the area, he needs to leave the area. If you don't want to leave the online community you share, don't leave it, but don't interact with him. Given his behavior with the guilt tripping, I think you probably should just take a break for a while (I'm guessing it'll take at least 6-12 months) though, for your own mental health. The most important thing when you're leaving this type of person (maybe depressed, nonfunctional, vague threats about what they will do if you leave them or how they'll be a shell of a person, etc.), is that you cannot help them once you break up, so please do not try to aid or comfort them in any way, regardless of the fact that you're sorry that they're hurting because you left them. I repeat, you must not "help" them in any way (emotional solace, shoulder to lean on, friendly chat, etc) once you break up, the best thing you can do to help them is to cease all contact and get out of their life completely so that they can get over you and move on as quickly as possible.

As seven snowflakes mentioned, you didn't say anything positive about this guy or your relationship, so I think I can safely say there's no chance you're going to get anything but a unanimous chorus of "get out".
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:41 PM on May 10, 2015 [28 favorites]

I don't quite know how we can convince you to leave someone you already know you need to leave. Your therapist, if anyone, should have been able to make you see the light and even then you can't do it. I will tell you this though, chances are eventually you will leave him. The question is, what will you have lost by then? Your money? Your credit rating? Your youth? Your twenties, thirties, forties? Your ability to bear children? How much will you give this man of your life before you leave?

Because I know women in your situation who gave them all of their twenties and thirties, then left. The men themselves ended up finding other women to support their slacker dreams and had a family. The ex girlfriend, well, by that stage they were too old to have their own children. They moved on but I can tell you now, there is nothing quite so bitter as a woman describing the man who robbed her of her child bearing years. Don't let this be you.
posted by Jubey at 10:46 PM on May 10, 2015 [17 favorites]

Get out. It won't get better. He's stuck, and he's going to drag you down with him. Get out now, and I guarantee you he'll find another person to live off of. Or he'll suddenly find a job. But he won't with you—that line about not living and loving without you is pure manipulation and a huge red flag. Trust us all and make the change you need to.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:48 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yes, it's time to leave. The transition will be difficult but not as hard as you think. Just start doing it; the path will become clearer as you go.
posted by vunder at 10:53 PM on May 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

I want to stop feeling like he's in my way.

Yikes. Yeah, between this and the resentment and contempt all over your question, I agree, it's time to leave.

Sounds like he's deep into avoidance, and, agree, depressed. As bad as that is, it's possible your leaving may prompt him to take action (well, he'll have to do something). If he doesn't, he still has family. Either way, you're already out the door, and staying will continue to hurt both of you (if nothing changes). You're not really emotionally in a position to help him, anyway.

If there's any affection or love that you haven't described above binding you to him, I guess you could give him a version of this question, along with an ultimatum. Tell him you're past it, and that you need to see him start moving on his life (therapy, job coach, something) or you will have to leave, and he'll have to start making plans for other living arrangements. Odds are it'll go badly. You'd have to be ok with baby steps on his side, and with the profound uncertainty of even an active job search. He might feel even more driven into depression. Who knows, though, maybe there's a small chance it could work. But it doesn't sound like you want it to.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:56 PM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I stayed with that guy. For 5 years and he cheated on me throughout. I thought I was in love and he was "The ONE", but really he was just using me until he could get ahead in life and ditch me as soon as I could no longer fund his lifestyle. 5 years later he's living in a city he loves with a degree and a nice apartment tv, laptop, furniture and everything else I bought. What I thought I was doing was building a life together with him. What really happened was that I was a means to an end for him to get what he wanted. I felt angry and bitter with so much resentment near the end that he got everything he wanted I was left with nothing but pain. I put my own life and goals behind and on the back burner while he was able to get his life ahead and accomplish his goals.

Now I'm spending the foreseeable future making up for my mistakes in believing that being "all in" would get him to commit and "loving and living authentically" was basically me being a doormat and not getting any of my needs met. At all. I got out with less time, money, in shape a bit worse for the wear than if I had ditched him when he showed me his true colors. I am much wiser now. Life has a way of teaching you lessons until you learn them, even if you have to learn them the hard way. And did I ever.

Hopefully you can make the right decision for yourself. Whether you have to set yourself a deadline and stick with it, whatever it is you got to do to stop dragging this out and pull the bandaid off already. Think that every moment you spend with him, you are losing with someone who will fulfill your needs and be happy that you are there living life with them, rather than asking you to watch them play video games. You know he is not what you want and there is no future there. I did, and it was the hardest to face the uncertainty of a future for myself that I focus solely on myself and realize that I am worth it. That I deserve better. That even though I gave up so much for him, he did not take my spirit. He did not own my heart. And he did not steal my future. You can do it. Not because you have to, because you must.
posted by lunastellasol at 10:58 PM on May 10, 2015 [11 favorites]

The "I'll never love again" line is BS, although he may well think he means it.

Don't stay with someone out of pity. Ever.

You've definitely given it a very good faith effort. Pull the plug.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:26 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

So, you know you have to leave him and you're just figuring out how, right? So I won't pile on.

1. How can I do this? He's dependent on me and has no friends left in the area.

Not your problem. Are you renting a place together? If it is in your name (or both names) then when does your lease end? What I would do is move my stuff out to a new place and tell him that the current place is paid for a month (ideally that would be just before he has to either renew the lease or not, if you have one) and he'll have to work out for himself what to do after that. It is not your problem.

2. How can I do this? He is very prominent in one of the online communities I frequent, and I don't want to have to leave everyone else.

This depends a ton on the community and it's dynamics - and whether he turns on you and has them all gang up on you afterwards, or he just ignores you. Without knowing anything about it, I'd just say that it's possible you can't keep this community after you break up, but I very very very very much doubt that it's worth staying with someone you despise just to stay in this community.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:43 PM on May 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

"How can I do this? He is very prominent in one of the online communities I frequent, and I don't want to have to leave everyone else."

Sometimes, you lose people and things during transitions. Accept it gracefully and build new friendships, acquire new things.

This is more comforting advice to implement, than maybe to hear. You can't have everything, but usually New and Better! stuff comes along.

Ask me how I know:))
posted by jbenben at 12:02 AM on May 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

How can I do this? He's dependent on me and has no friends left in the area.

This is not your problem. If he wants friends, then he has to make friends, just like everyone else. If he doesn't have a job and needs an income, then he has to figure out some way to get an income, just like everyone else. It's horrible to be in the position that he's in, but he has to save himself and as the psychiatrist joke goes, "he has to want to change". If he was paying you large sums of money, then maybe you could stick around and be his Life Manager. Everyone has to look out for themselves first and foremost, because otherwise you end up in situations like the two of you are in. You are not helping him by enabling him.

How can I do this? He is very prominent in one of the online communities I frequent, and I don't want to have to leave everyone else.

If people are going to side with him, then they're going to do that and there's not much you can do about it. If you're not close enough with people that they'll do that, then they're not good enough friends in the first place. People might turn on you, but them's the breaks sometimes.

Staying with someone out of fear and pity is a bad thing to do.
posted by Solomon at 1:59 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

he told me that if we broke up, he didn't think he could live, and he definitely would never be able to love again. That sobered me up; why would he put that kind of burden on me?

He's repeated that line, that he'll never love anyone again if I leave him several time since.

God, break up with him just over this if nothing else. The two things you listed are 100% not your problem and any sympathy i had for him, basically having been this guy more than once in slumps of my life evaporated.

That shit is manipulative, borderline abusive, and just generally garbage. And that's the laziest, most pathetic limp-wanged version of that kind of stuff.

I've been friends or acquaintances with several people who sort of drifted in to a hole of acting like this with no job, and in EVERY case a breakup kicked their ass and they're doing a bajillion times better now. The first problem will likely resolve itself after the breakup, or he'll just become the shutin he wants to be. The second one well, if anything crap happens with that community, they were a bunch of catty assholes anyways.
posted by emptythought at 2:32 AM on May 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

You've given him a million chances to change. He isn't going to. When he says "I'll never love anyone else if you leave me" - he knows very well you're frustrated and thinking of leaving him, and he still hasn't made any changes. It's easier to guilt you into staying instead. Ultimatums only work if the other person didn't realise there was a serious problem - he knows exactly what the problem is, but doesn't like the solution.

The apartment will be the main issue when you dump him - are you month-to-month, or on a lease? Can you break the lease? Can you get your name off the lease? I'd look into that first, talk to the landlord and hand your notice in, and then present it as a fait accompli - lease ends in two months, and then you'll be moving out without him. Do not try to evict him and stay on yourself, despite whatever he says to your face he won't go. It'll just be an endless round of excuses and guilting and whining and extensions. I would probably give him first and last on a new place, and give him two months' notice not just 30 days, but that is just so I would have him out of my hair and not trying to guilt me over his homelessness. If he wants to stay on in the old place that's for him to negotiate with the landlord himself, keep out of that discussion completely.

You will obviously have to write off the $8000 he owes you - you'll never see that again. Make sure your name is off all bills, he's already been expensive enough.
posted by tinkletown at 2:59 AM on May 11, 2015

Oh my god, you have to get out now. He won't ever change; he'll just keep manipulating you. He'll find a way to get by, and even if he doesn't? That's not actually your fault or your problem.

Don't listen to him when he says that he'll never love anyone else again, or that he won't be able to live without you. My ex threatened suicide while we were breaking up but he is still very much alive. He was just trying to reel me back in, but it backfired because that ended up being the moment when I finally realised just how emotionally abusive he was.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 3:44 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

You seem like a person who knows what she wants out of life and this guy isn't giving it to you. Just face it; you know he has no intention of changing despite all of his charm. Rip the band-aid off and break up with him.

And honestly, if you cheated on your steady boyfriend right before he was preparing to propose... ugh! That's f'ed up. It seems like you have some growing up to do yourself. Do not commit to someone when you're not ready. It's a disservice to you and your intended partner. Best wishes, truly. Just don't act like you're on board with another person when you're really not feeling it. That's cruel.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:03 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's time. It's past time. Go.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:27 AM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Don't listen to him when he says that he'll never love anyone else again, or that he won't be able to live without you. My ex threatened suicide while we were breaking up but he is still very much alive. He was just trying to reel me back in, but it backfired because that ended up being the moment when I finally realised just how emotionally abusive he was.

Yep--I had someone try to pull this on me, repeatedly, to try to wheedle a commitment and then make me feel guilty for not being swayed. He even played the past mental health diagnosis card (suicidal depression). Five months later, the "we're so in luuurve" photo with another woman was his new Facebook profile pic!

It's an emotionally immature manipulation at worst, something he should be exploring in therapy at best--not with you. Grown ups start and end relationships all the time. People die. It's not your business if he "can never love again," it's his.

Along those lines, don't let any residual guilt or regret about how your previous relationship ended (was ended by you) create a sense of high stakes/investment in making this work out as a form of redemption or vindication for that long ago, very young decision.
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:43 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

That sobered me up; why would he put that kind of burden on me?

Because being emotionally manipulative is an effective way to keep you in the relationship (and to keep supporting his bum lifestyle, of course).

You've broken up with him already in your heart; now it is time to break up in real life. There is nothing about this situation that will get better or easier with time -- sooner is better in every way.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:49 AM on May 11, 2015 [7 favorites]

Your question is dripping with contempt for this guy. Of course you should break up.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:55 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

As for how to do it, this is what I would do. Line up temporary housing, say for a month or six weeks. Tell him he can stay in the apartment for six weeks while you live somewhere else, but on X date he has to be gone with all his stuff. It's his problem to figure out how to do that. He will probably need to lean on his family. Whatever, it's not your problem to figure it out for him. He will probably make a very big deal about how he can't cope and will try to make you feel guilty. Whatever, again, it's not your problem to figure out how he can support himself. Disengage.

You need to go. You know you need the freedom. Move forward in a positive manner and leave all this negativity behind you.
posted by raisingsand at 7:25 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

It will be tough for him when dump him. However, he won't believe this for years (if ever), but it will be even worse for him if you stay with him for his stake. Living with a romantic partner who holds you in contempt and pities you is incredibly destructive for a person.

To be clear, you should leave him for your own sake. This relationship really isn't working for you. But don't feel too guilty about the impact on him as this really is the best decision for both of you. If he wasn't so desperate and depressed, he might be able to see that.

I've been friends or acquaintances with several people who sort of drifted in to a hole of acting like this with no job, and in EVERY case a breakup kicked their ass and they're doing a bajillion times better now.

There are no guarantees in this life, but there is some chance this will be true. It certainly was for me. After I was dumped and left by a girlfriend who had come to pity and despise me, I went through an even darker period for a while. Then, however, I started to slowly recover my sense of self and make plans for my future. I met with a career counselor, left my dead-end job, got a new job in a field I was interested in, and made plans to go back to school to get the credentials I needed for a career I picked in that field. She didn't dump me for my sake and she wasn't particularly nice about it (leaving someone on their birthday is a bit much), but it really was best for both of us.
posted by Area Man at 7:42 AM on May 11, 2015

"That sobered me up; why would he put that kind of burden on me?"
Because.... its his lever for keeping you, and by extension, the real world of jobs and money and debt and responsibility where he wants you? IE, providing, enabling, and covering his ass.... protecting him from, well, himself. Not romantic, not sexy, not a partnership, not the relationship I'd want to be in.
posted by Jacen at 9:49 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

It sounds like honestly part of why you've been with this guy was not that you loved him, but that you thought he was exciting and mysterious and also because you had cheated on your old boyfriend, and fell prey to the sunk cost fallacy. You told yourself that because you had cheated with this guy, he must be something special. It must not be that you were a cheater. It must be that This Relationship was the one that was meant to be!

But it sounds like he's just a guy, and a guy you don't really like too much. You think he's boring now that you know there's no more 'mystery'. You moved in with him because you thought he had good friends and a future, not because you actually loved him.

You should break up with him, but you should also recognize that you should never have been with him in the first place, and that you are not coming out covered with honor in this whole matter.
posted by corb at 10:01 AM on May 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's kind of ironic-- you want him to get his life together professionally but you don't seem to be able to do the same thing for yourself personally, even though in both cases it's obvious what needs doing. What a mess! What made you think sharing all of your money and housing with a rebound guy you didn't know very well in your early 20s was an awesome idea? How did you see this all playing out exactly? That's the poor judgment issue you need to come to terms with for yourself. Don't feel too bad-- young women make stupid mistakes just like this all the time. But in the future, do the exact opposite of that. I don't mean to sound harsh-- I am trying to get through the sad social-conditioning you seem to have going on that you have to have a man in your life to have worth-- no! I want you to be able to buy yourself a kickass house in 2 years.

Worry about yourself-- he is just not your problem. You are your problem. You've wasted half a decade of your most attractive years on this one guy. As long as he remains in your life, you are not going to be able to achieve your stated goals of buying a home and raising a family. You should do whatever you need to do to maintain your good credit, such as disentangle your finances, and leave your shared apartment the moment your lease allows it. And for the next 3 years, don't rush in to living with anyone else you're dating. Good luck!
posted by hush at 10:54 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ooo, Freudian slip:
"I can't bring myself to pull the cord."
The cliche is "cut the cord," and the cord in that metaphor is umbilical. In the metaphor you thought you were presenting, you're supplying sustenance to a dependent and you can't bring yourself to cut him loose. What you actually typed, "pull the cord," is a cliche for a different situation. You pull a rip cord to open a parachute and arrest freefall. So what you're saying is that you can't bring yourself to do anything to save yourself and him from this idiotic situation you're both in thanks to your having leaped off the old boyfriend and onto this one because you assumed this one's shame over his humble situation was some sexy Heathcliffian sparklevampirejams and therefore he was a better lilypad. Because the history of this relationship is unsavory, you're prepared to ignore it and keep plummeting earthward until the splat. (Also, it would suck if you pulled the cord and he issued a proclamation about it to your mutual internet community and poisoned them all against you and then opened up like a huge, beautiful, game-designing silk sky flower and floated happily to prosperous safety, leaving you alone, friendless, and sad.)

"Any time I ask 'are you going to apply today?' 'I will definitely try' 'by tomorrow'. I'm sick of hearing this bullshit."
Then you must use the side of your hand and the full strength of your dominant arm to chop him one in the neck area before he can start to answer you when you ask him to talk bullshit. Or you could put on earplugs before a questioning sesh? Going by your report, when you ask him for bullshit he obliges you with the bullshit you asked for. Also going by what you've written,the bullshit he presents to you is audible and your ears are undamaged, so that you are able to hear it. Evidently you can't quit asking him for bullshit, so I suggest you try one of these technological solutions.

"I told my bf ineffectual [the incompetent, do-nothing, talk-big, sit-around-all-day, now-fired employee] had been, and he said my attitude was 'scary'. I think he was reading between the lines and applying my description of the person to himself."
I think he was reading the lines themselves. I don't think he had to go too far between them to get your meaning. I think you wish you'd stayed with the better lily pad and are kicking yourself because this one has proven to be structurally unsound. I think the best thing for both of you would be for you to get the hell away from one another and stop "helping" each other. And you need to get your own career viability and friends circle and sparklevampire awesomeness and stop looking to bogart the probably specious awesomeness of potential boyfriends. Stop ignoring the fact that you were awful five years ago: you were awful five years ago. Dumping one man for another one that looked more like a "provider" was wrong not because the dumped one turned out to be more economically viable after all but because YOU need to provide for you. That way you can choose freely and honestly and you won't make heartless and bad decisions. It is okay that you were awful because everybody's awful when they're young, and the five-years-ago you was a very young person. Anyway, he lilypadded, too, clearly. And the other dude is fine. So the harm done will be small, as long as you face up to it and make changes. This thing you're in is based on a wrong assumption and a bad decision and a reluctance to honestly look at yourselves. Time to pull the cord and float on out of it.

Go forth and get your own real sparkles, anon! For god's sake don't worry about "wasting your most attractive years." Making bad decisions is how we all spend our most attractive years unless we're, I dunno, some kind of Strom Thurmond type who sprang from the womb all self-actualized and ready to go. The most attractive years also happen to be the most wacked-out-of-your-mind years when you make the worst decisions and lay waste to the world around you. It would be best for all of us if we could get into something--a coma, prison, a starter relationship just like this one--that would keep us safely out of trouble 'til our brains finally hardened off and we could think straight. You lucked into this thing and it kept you out of trouble and now you are perfectly positioned to make a positive change and kick off the most-smart years of your life.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:15 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've known for a long time that he is not a good long-term prospect... but he keeps melting my heart and drawing me back in.

Sounds like he's been coasting on charm. His friends figured it out and left. Now's your turn.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:10 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hey there, I've lived through this. Started dating a girl in college. I was smart, insightful, but shy, and she was drawn to that. Moved in with her, squandered my degree by not using connections, not applying for jobs, spent all day doing nothing productive, lied to my girlfriend that I was sending out resumes, kept this up for a year. It's the single most shameful thing I've ever done. I can probably relate to your boyfriend, but I can only guess as to his thoughts and motivations.

He's almost certainly depressed. For me, it was a combination of that, and an anxiety/crippling fear of failure. For me, staying in my shell and just barely getting by was "good enough." I knew that both her and I deserved better, and I struggled at improving at times, but at some point my depressed/anxious side realized that she loved me too much to leave me, meaning that inaction became the obvious choice over attempting (and possibly failing) at improving. I just ... coasted, and lost about two years of my life that way.

I certainly said the "I'll never love anyone else" line. At some level, I think I knew it may have been controlling her, but I was saying it because my self-esteem was at rock bottom. I didn't want to love, because I felt I didn't deserve to be loved. She knew this, and it caused her to allow me to become more dependent upon her, as I had nobody else (no real friends), but this tired her out; she didn't ask to take care of me as a child. This push-pull situation was a really bad situation for both of us, as it just extended a state where nothing was changing, nothing improving. I never threatened suicide, but we both shared suicidal thoughts (more idealistic/intrusive thoughts, neither of us intended to act upon them.)

Anyways. The beginning of what pulled me out was getting a temp job at an office. That became a full time job, which then became a job in a field I enjoy. I'm far from perfect, I'm not as proactive on improving as I want to be, but I'm now reasonably functioning, and happy most days. The change was brought about by a combination of a lucky opportunity, the fear that she would actually leave me, and the fear that I would live an unfulfilling life. I don't know where this motivation will come from for him, but it's his to find.

He probably needs to seek out therapy and/or medication, or some way to healthily respond to his inaction. He needs to pursue hobbies that present social opportunities with other people. He needs to have a life independent of yours.

You need to leave him. It is absolutely in your best interest, and probably for his.

The twist ending here is that my girlfriend never left me (she was also dependent upon me for problems she was having). We are both doing much, much better now (probably hard to believe with what I've written above), but we both agree that it would have been better to separate, and if we had both improved, we would possibly pursue a relationship together again somewhere further down the line. It would have hurt me terribly, yes, but we both needed to fully accept that I was solely responsible for my actions and my future. You and him should do the same.
posted by Skephicles at 2:26 PM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

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