how do i break up with my long-term partner
June 5, 2015 9:29 AM   Subscribe

i need to break up with my partner of six years. it is a bad time.

my partner of six years, j, just lost his job in a totally devastating event. he is distraught. it has been two weeks.

i am starting a residency many hundreds of miles west in like a month. we were talking about trying long distance.

we have been on-and-off fighting for months about how i don't feel like he gives enough to the relationship, that i do all the emotional and household work. we had a come-to-jesus talk (in which i told him to come to jesus). the next morning, he got fired.

he is in terrible shape and i am doing my best to be supportive, but inside i know (and i already knew) i need to end things. he can't, won't, or isn't capable of giving me what i need.

the timing is so shitty; i thought we might break up anyway when i moved. but now he needs support, and he needs me. and he doesn't have a problem with the relationship not meeting my needs, so as far as he's concerned, that isn't a big deal.

i have been avoiding spending time around him and avoiding sex and so exhausted from my sadness and anxiety about this. and i also cannot fathom causing him more pain.

we live together until i move. i can't afford to move in the interim / he wouldn't want to move. i go out with friends and crush on all of them because they talk to me and pay attention to me. and, like, friends tell stories about their relationships and i want what they have. i imagine starting dating again or even just being single and they both sound so much better than this terrible situation, where i am living with someone i love dearly but who is hurting me and who is so blatantly not meeting my needs and who is wearing me down with his need.

it makes me sick to think about how much i'd be hurting and deserting j right now.

help. how could i possibly end it now? and how can i keep going knowing i will end it later?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For me a month+ is too long to ride this out. My personal feeling is that a month of distance, silence, and no sex would be worse than a break up.

You mention in your post that you have been doing all the emotional heavy lifting. Trying to safeguard his wellbeing here is you doing that again. You can’t be responsible for another adult’s happiness. If you could find a friend to stay with for 4 weeks, I’d break up right away.
posted by French Fry at 9:39 AM on June 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

If you're avoiding him and avoiding sex, fighting with him and having crushes on other people, you're really not doing him any favors or supporting him by sticking around. I think based on what you've said you really need to break up with him as soon as possible, and also try as hard as you can to see it as your responsibility to stay far away from him so he can find a support network that isn't you - if you try to support him in this situation, you really will just hurt him more.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:40 AM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Somebody ended a LTR with me when I was at a very difficult and low place in my life. Wow, it sucked. It sucked a lot. But not for very long. Soon that suck was over, I bounced back, and made a lot of steps in my life I might not have made if I had been trying to maintain that particular relationship as well. I felt devastated for about a week, and then I started to move on. Your SO will figure it out, too.

Please don't let your boyfriend hold you emotionally hostage. Be kind, be honest, and do what needs to be done.
posted by phunniemee at 9:43 AM on June 5, 2015 [28 favorites]

Breathe. This is only going to be a month away, and then you get to move and occupy yourself with all kinds of new things. You can do this. Life's going to be better for both of you than it is right now, as time passes and you both get some distance from this.

You say you can't afford to move in the interim, but I'd really examine that and see if there's a way for you to leave sooner, unless your next month of income is necessary to pay for moving costs. If you have a car and are planning on moving it, do you have friends you could stay with for a few days along the way as you road trip your way to new place? Could you couch surf, either in your existing town or between here and there? Think about it.

I'm sure the massive life change is going to make this a stressful time, but it also gives you things that are changing for the better to focus on, as opposed to solely dealing with the emotional upheaval of ending a long term relationship. Regardless of what you do with the living situation, I suggest you focus on that (and on you, and on your future), where you can.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:45 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

It will never be a good time. Honestly, with you leaving in a month, now seems like as good a time as you're going to get.

As someone who was you in a similar-but-not-exact situation years ago, It's going to hurt him a lot and, fair warning, it's probably going to hurt you more than you realize when it happens. But the sooner you do it, the better. Dragging it out waiting for it to 'get easier' is only going to make it harder.

Find someone you can crash with for the next month and remove yourself from the situation. His needing you isn't good for him, and he needs to get on getting on without you . It's the best thing you can do for both of you.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:45 AM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

You can't not be the villain when you leave someone who loves you. Anything you do to "soften" the blow just gives false hope. I've heard tales of smooth endings, but I've never seen one, personally.

So from his vantage point, the conclusion is sealed: you will ultimately be a villain. If you leave now, at his low point, you're the awful person who left at his low point. If you wait and leave later, you're no less awful. You are not going to get points for sticking around.

So....the question is: how important are those hypothetical points in all this? If you accept my premise - that you won't make him think more fondly of you if you wait to leave at a less crushing moment - then what's left? Is there no reason at all not to leave post haste? Or will you still feel a nagging fondness for this person and a desire to help him through this terrible time, simply because you want to?

If the latter, stick around, be supportive and helpful, and make clear that's what you're doing (say it once, no need to repeat; if he's in denial, it's on him). Be there for him....and commit. This means you don't expect anything back from him (1. he's not a giver-backer to begin with, and 2. people in pain have extra trouble being thoughtful and generous). You're doing this because it's something you want to do...keep that firmly in mind.

If the former, take a few hours to write a terse note, not more than a paragraph, and make it about him, not you, and express sincere hope that the job situation turns around. Don't tell him he can call you if he's feeling extra blue or wants help/advice. Pull the bandaid off, don't give him false hope.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:54 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Though the pull will be strong, stay centered on taking care of yourself. Do your best to disengage from tending to his needs. Whether or not he figures out how to take care of himself is not your problem.

I find that people who take more from a relationship than they give lose interest rapidly once you match effort levels with them.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Big hugs to you. I've been in your situation, I know how stressful it is. You're making the right decision. (I know that's not really what your question is about, but I'm telling you so anyway. I needed that reassurance when I was there.)

If it's at all possible to break up earlier than a month from now, I suggest you do so. Can you crash with friends? I completely understand that logistics are tough; I waited about a month for similar reasons, but in retrospect I really, truly wish I hadn't. It only made it more painful for both of us. He felt so betrayed once he put two and two together and realized that I had made up my mind weeks prior and just waited it out. It's definitely not something one can poker-face one's way through for very long.

The bottom line is, even though he's having a tough time, it's not your responsibility to help him out right now -- particularly because he doesn't seem to give a damn about your own needs -- and even if it were, you won't be doing him any favors by sticking around in the short term. The most compassionate thing you can do is end the relationship as soon as possible so that you can both start healing and moving on.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 10:13 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's going to hurt him a lot. No, there's not a way you can make it hurt less. If you were somehow able to stay until everything was great in his life again, then all you'd be doing would be ruining that happy great time. It's weird to think of causing someone more hurt when they're down as having a up side, but at least he'll be able to concentrate all of his sadness in one period of time.
posted by MsMolly at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2015

Tell him now. And find a place to live. You can't have both. You just can't.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:26 PM on June 5, 2015

Total honesty (just what I would do):

1. Stop having sex, come up with a medical excuse if necessary
2. Be out of the house more
3. Don't break up until you're already long distance. If you do it now, the next month will be hellish misery of him probably stalking you and crying and threatening to hurt himself and you're MOVING and that's already fucking exhausting.
4. Don't officially move out, it costs too much, but couch surf or stay overnight with family as much as possible.
5. After you've moved into your new place, break the news a week or two in. The distance will help both him and you move on.

Just my opinion. A lot of people probably think it's cowardly and horrible but damned if I do. It's almost IMPOSSIBLE to make a clean break after six years and this is not going to be "okay bye" and then you never talk. There will be fallout.
posted by quincunx at 4:10 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

My general rule is that if it's less than a month, it isn't worth moving unless there's actual abuse going on and not just shittyness/annoyance.

This has a natural expiration date. The smoothest course is probably just to... let it expire.

I've ridden out shitty situations for far too long before, but a month? That's doable. Anything else is going to be more work. And i'm really seeing the scenario quincunx laid out of drama and crying and passive aggressive bullshit, or trouble getting your stuff from the house(or even just that being stressful and dumb).

The advice to be around less is good though. Just... don't be home much. It sounds like things were already getting withdrawn anyways.

I wouldn't lie if confronted, but i wouldn't start the process until i was moving either.
posted by emptythought at 4:52 PM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Don't feel too bad about this. You've been carrying all the emotional weight so far, your guy knows he hasn't been and not only does that not bother him but you're now expected to do even more for him because he's lost his job? Yeah, no. He's basically emptied your well so much you have nothing left to give and when he asks for a shoulder to cry on, I would tell him as much.

I wouldn't move out yet though. Not for him, but because it's more hassle filled drama for you. Just be out a lot. Do the slow fade thing, let him rely on other people for support and when you move for your residency, slower again until he gets the message. Trust me, he knows what the deal is and he's probably panicking because he realises he's about to be left with nothing. Not great for him, but you reap what you sow and all and he'll be better in his next relationship for having learnt this lesson.
posted by Jubey at 8:55 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is there a risk that he will decide he should move with you since he doesn't have a job tying him to his current location any more, or perhaps skip/turn down chances to move somewhere else/go back to school/etc in the next month because of your relationship?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:05 PM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I got dumped - short term relationship, so a somewhat different experience - a week after I lost my dad and my job. My grief about those two things let me put my anger at the guy on the back burner and focus on healing from the job loss and death. It sounds like there's a lot of stress in the relationship and its end would relieve him of some of that. YMMV.
posted by bendy at 3:57 PM on June 6, 2015

The transition to residency, and moving to do so to boot, is going to require a lot of physical and emotional energy (this is an understatement). Now is the time to rest and recharge before you start the next chapter of your medical training. What decision will help you do that the most in the next month?
posted by alygator at 10:24 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

First year of residency is a necessarily selfish time. You'll be such a shitty partner, it would only work with someone 100% understanding and supportive and mature. I am grateful that I got out of my unsupportive relationship before going through it. It's such a luxury to have ALL of your time to yourself when you have so unbelievably little free time (during which all you can think of is sleep, and if you can stay awake long enough, 30 minutes of beer and Netflix.)

If you're having doubts, frankly, it seems inevitable. Why prolong the inevitable? I think you already know what's going to happen here. Trust me, you won't regret it. You're about to meet a whole bunch of new people who will be your rocks and you'll love each other to bits by this time next year. Ask me how I know :-)

Good luck!
posted by GastrocNemesis at 6:25 PM on June 9, 2015

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