Should I end my relationship, and if so how?
May 24, 2015 5:50 PM   Subscribe

I (26f) have been with my boyfriend (28m) for 6 years. I've always had doubts in the back of my mind and am thinking about ending things for the 3rd time in 2 years. Am I making the right decision, and how do I go about it?

He's a good, simple guy, we share a great sense of humour. He's loyal, secure, responsible, even cooks. We like doing similar things - movies at home, going out every week and travelling occasionally. We've established a nice level of comfort.

Yet I question our compatibility:
- I've always felt we lack an emotional connection. He doesn't like discussing things in depth and we mainly focus on superficial topics, whereas I love being able to talk about anything.
- Poor communication and understanding - We find it extremely difficult to talk about our issues... probably due to my first point.
- He's practical and tries to teach me things around the house, or constructively critiques my cooking. Before he questioned whether I could raise a family and used to get really impatient when trying to teach me things.
- I'm affectionate and passionate. He's the opposite. He goes about life feeling neutral about almost everything. I find it hard to get psyched about life with him.

The first time I ended things, was triggered by a series of arguments. I went back soon after because I felt lonely and wanted to give us a chance. Things improved - slightly. Then he became increasingly impatient, and I felt disconnected, so I ended it. 2 weeks later he messaged me asking if it's really over. I saw that as my last chance and went back.

This time things improved much more. He became more affectionate (physically e.g. a hug annd kiss here and there) and more patient. I worked on my skills around the house.

In the beginning I had low self esteem and was afraid to talk about things that worried me. Since starting a different job 3 years ago, I became more confident, hence started questioning things. He once said I'm becoming the kind of person he wouldn't date - and listed 2 people we know - both quirky and talk about random things, and one of them's a bit of a party animal in his eyes.

He used to be the kind of person I would date - sensible, kind, funny... We've tried so hard, yet I want something more. I feel so selfish for this... but I've changed. I feel I'm not growing anymore in this relationship and that I have to hold back.

With everyone getting married (he's spoken of a future together), at one point I was excited, maybe it was just about the idea of a wedding. Now I'm not sure if I want to spend my life with him. I'm scared I'll regret leaving and being alone, and having to start over again. A new person, a new set of problems. Yet I also don't want to be trapped in 5 years and wanting to leave.

TL;DR: I think I'm leaning more towards breaking up, but am I making the right decision? How do I go about it? We have a house together, which he is living in (I stay over Thur-Mon). If I leave I have family I can stay with. We'll eventually have to sell the house... How do I go about coping with the end of our relationship and fighting feelings of wanting to go back?
posted by Satsue to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I really didn't have to read any further than the beginning of your second sentence:

"I've always had doubts"

Life is too short to stay with someone you have doubts about.
posted by cecic at 6:08 PM on May 24, 2015 [19 favorites]

Thing is, in this arena and in others, in my experience there's unfortunately no way to know whether you've made the right decision until you've already jumped and it's too late to go back. You just have to do the mental calculus, listen to your gut, make a decision, and see where the path takes you: you can never know what would have happened if you had chosen the other fork. You're going to get a lot of answers here about how you should break up with him now, how you should look for someone who is more compatible, how you should value the particular person you're with over your desire to get married, etc. I think it's more complicated. It's likely but not certain that you'll meet someone else to marry and have children with before time runs out. What I typically do in this situation is ask myself whether I'd rather be in the current situation I'm in, with the partner I'm with, or whether I'd rather be single. When my first LTR ended, the timing was precipitated by larger events out of our control, but the clincher for me was when I thought about it and realized that I'd rather be single than be in the relationship I was in. I think this is good advice because it avoids the common trap of comparing your current partner, whom you know warts and all, with some imagined composite perfect fantasy man of your dreams. Imagine yourself in a year or two. Really spend a while visualizing your possible life, your emotional states, etc. Would imagined-you-in-1.5-years rather be single and dating, or would you rather be engaged/married to your current boyfriend (as he is right now, not as you think you could change him)? Then you have your answer.
posted by ClaireBear at 6:18 PM on May 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think the only question is if you are going to break up with him now or later.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:19 PM on May 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

- He's practical and tries to teach me things around the house, or constructively critiques my cooking. Before he questioned whether I could raise a family and used to get really impatient when trying to teach me things.

Is it constructive, though? Questioning someone's ability to raise a family and giving unsolicited "critique" of anything at all on a regular basis seems rather overbearing. Has he stopped doing that? Maybe he also considers you a less than ideal partner to raise a family with?

Besides that, from everything else you've written, it sounds like you are making the right decision and should end this relationship. You deserve to feel wonderful in a relationship, not merely comfortable, while emotionally disconnected and misunderstood. And should not settle for anything less! Regardless of your age, gender, any other one of your traits, or whether other people you know are getting married.

True, it will be "a new person, a new set of problems", but I think you'll be able to choose better now. You have 6 years of experience in a relationship and seem to have learned a lot about who you are, and what you want. And you will be a better judge of compatibility.
posted by ipsative at 6:20 PM on May 24, 2015 [10 favorites]

If you have been together for six years and still don't know, then yes, you should end it. Especially if you have had doubts all along.

Be honest and kind and straightforward. There's not anything wrong with either of you, you just aren't best suited for each other.

When you think about going back, maybe think about it in terms of doing the right thing for both of you. There doesn't sound like there's any strong animosity between the two of you. You seem to care for him. Think about it in terms of "He deserves to be with someone who loves him completely. I deserve to be with someone who loves me completely. We are not that person for each other." By splitting up, and staying that way, you are doing something kind and generous for both of you.

Good luck!
posted by Beti at 6:30 PM on May 24, 2015 [12 favorites]

I'm not sure why you say you feel selfish. There is nothing generous about staying with someone you don't think you're a good match with. It's the right thing to do to let you both find people who will make you happier.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:48 PM on May 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

If you have to ask, the answer is yes. You should break up with this guy. Your six year relationship has run its course. I'm sorry. You're going to be so much happier when it's well and over though, you really will be.

Are you familiar with the term "sunk cost fallacy?" Because that totally applies here. You're thinking of how hard it will be to end it. Face the facts here--you are ultimately unhappy in this relationship, and every day you put off ending things you only become more unhappy and your lives only become more entrenched.

So end things now. Like right now. Take a day to map out (like literally ink on paper write down) the practical concerns here so you have a way to keep yourself on track when your emotions take over.

How do I go about coping with the end of our relationship and fighting feelings of wanting to go back?

The way you deal with this is by allowing yourself to grieve the relationship. Even though from what you've written here it is clearly the course of action you need to take that will make you happier in the long run, ending a significant relationship is sad. It is ok to mourn the loss of the potential you hoped that relationship would have. This can be as formal or informal or as lengthy or quick as you need it to be. Since loneliness brought you back to him before, I think it's going to be important for you to tangibly acknowledge its end.

And then go date other people.
posted by phunniemee at 6:50 PM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

What if everyone here told you that you were being ridiculous and OF COURSE you should stay with him FOREVER. Assume we all piled on you that need to stay together because even though YOU may think you want to end it, we know better than you and if you break up you'll ruin your life.

You'd read that and say, "Wow. You people are really stupid." Right?

Just break up with him already.
posted by kinetic at 7:10 PM on May 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

You're 26 years old, you have a lot of growing and changing to do and for most people that is easier to do outside of a relationship they formed barely outside of their teens. Your feeling that you're not growing is a good enough reason, it doesn't even have to be about compatibility.
posted by vunder at 7:10 PM on May 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

You're not obligated to stay with someone just because they're not utterly awful. You can go if you want to go. And you sound like you want to go.

There are other fish in the sea, and you are statistically only moderately likely to have met your terminal fish at 26.

Go already. Tell him you don't want to do this anymore, go live with your family for a while, dissolve the home ownership and sell. EVERYONE has feelings of wanting to go back, even people who are cheated on and stolen from and hit and betrayed, so it's not special that you feel it. What you do is suck it up. Six months from now, you'll be so glad you did.

Seriously, if you have to ask, the answer is yes. Go.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:14 PM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's your age that sways me. This has been a great relationship for you to learn and grow in - but probably not one you want to be in for the rest of your life. Fortunately, you are both young. It will be hard, but if you feel you are done growing in this relationship, that is about all there is to know. It's probably best to end it, especially if the idea 'wedding' gives you cold feet.
posted by Miko at 7:36 PM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

We've tried so hard, yet I want something more.

When people say marriages and relationships are hard work they mean the every day stuff, not that you need to work hard at being compatible. It really sounds like you find him kind of bland and if so continuing the relationship is unfair to you and to him.

To me it sounds as if for your birthday you want to have the most decadent and delicious cake but then someone is like oh no, have this apple. It is perfectly adequate and sensible and that is all you need. If this kind of logic wouldn't be okay when choosing a birthday dessert, then it's certainly not okay when choosing a life partner.

Don't forget: you don't need him to be a horrible, or even a bad person to justify a break up. The only thing you owe him is respect, and you can respectfully break up with him.
posted by Tarumba at 7:43 PM on May 24, 2015 [9 favorites]

He once said I'm becoming the kind of person he wouldn't date

Sounds like both of you know you're not working but you're both too scared of being alone to pull the cord and get out. Your other option is to stay with him kind of questioning it for 20 years until one of you has a mid-life crisis/health scare/some kind of shock that wakes you up enough to realise you are wasting your fucking lives here and hey, 45 isn't too late to break up with someone you never really wanted to be with! Good luck, don't have kids, that'll make the eventual break-up much harder.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:43 PM on May 24, 2015 [15 favorites]

AskMe can be a little draconian ('it's over! Give up!") but it's at the very least time for an honest conversation.
posted by Miko at 7:49 PM on May 24, 2015

My partner and I have a lot of similar incompatibilities (less so on the critique thing, but definitely on the comms, the interests, and so on). But we don't have doubts, we may sometimes wonder how and why it works as well as it does, but we don't have doubts about how much we love each other, the work we put in, that we're in this forever and that it is all worth it.

You aren't happy and your partner struggles to make the changes you need and you struggle to make the changes he needs. You don't talk about love nearly so much as about habit, which is a terrible reason to stay in a relationsip (moreso when none of the other habits strengthen the relationship).
posted by geek anachronism at 8:19 PM on May 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have a lovely partner I sometimes have a communications screw-up with. We then both panic a little, try to explain what we were thinking but doing a poor job of communicating, and fill in the blanks with "and anyway, I love you!" And while I can stew a little about wondering why we have those moments and good grief will they ever totally go away (possibly not; all relationships require well-considered work) I do not have doubts and do not think about ending things.

It is not selfish to not want to be in a relationship you have this many doubts about. At all. Especially at an age where most people are looking for a suitable partner to have a family with. He gets really impatient trying to teach you things, and yet he "questioned whether [you] could raise a family"? That's a bit nuts. Let somebody else deal with him getting impatient with his kids trying to learn things. Ick.

If it helps, I like to look at old relationships with the idea in mind that they were a nice fellow traveler at that point in my life. This guy has been a nice part of your 2009-2015 life. It does not mean he is required to be a permanent fixture. You guys had a nice thing together, neither of you are bad people, but he was right for 2009-2015, not 2009-death. It's totally okay.
posted by kmennie at 7:05 AM on May 25, 2015

If you're still not happy about the things you weren't happy about the last time you broke it off, it's time to go. If it's been two years and nothing has substantively changed, it's time to go.

As for how to do the actual breaking up, Miko spelled it out years ago.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:11 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could stay with your partner in a blah relationship forever. Or you could leave and find that you relationship was really holding you back from doing the things you want to do with your life. Which kind of person do you want to be?
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:21 AM on May 25, 2015

I think breaking up is the right decision here.
posted by ead at 8:08 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is a whole host of stuff to work on- love languages, communication....

But yall seem mutually incompatible at this point. He sounds like he's drawing away too, but doesn't really want to pull the trigger. Would you be terribly sad if he broke up with you?
posted by Jacen at 7:06 PM on May 25, 2015

The most important thing I've learnt on Metafilter, is that one does not need a reason to break up with someone. Simply not wanting to be in the relationship anymore, is a good enough reason.
posted by shazzam! at 9:01 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Before he questioned whether I could raise a family and used to get really impatient when trying to teach me things

You don't need this kind of guy in your life. He's not a partner--he's bossy as hell and will make you miserable.
posted by discopolo at 3:56 AM on May 26, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you to each and everyone for taking the time to respond. I ended the relationship last week. He took it pretty well. Maybe too well - to the point that he is aloof, cold and calculative. I think that he understands my reasons for ending it, and perhaps he feels that we were drifting apart too (I remember him stating this last year).

I feel that yes, I've lost a part of me because we have been together for so long, and I will mourn that loss. Perhaps I miss the comfort more than the actual relationship or person. However, I feel liberated, and that I have made the right decision. I'm working on improving myself, surrounding myself with positive people, and am looking forward to a new life.
posted by Satsue at 12:42 AM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

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