Should I break up with my boyfriend?
August 16, 2015 5:46 PM   Subscribe

I've become bored with my five-year relationship and desperately need change, but am scared to throw it all away.

My boyfriend and I (mid-20s) have been together for 5 years and by all accounts are perfect together. We have the same sense of humor (which is important to me), similar life goals, five years of shared history and understanding, and he is very supportive of all my endeavors. The problem is for some time I’ve been just feeling bored. We don’t have any friends so we spend all our time together – hang out together at home, go out to eat together, then go back home. He is very introverted so is generally fine with this, whereas I am somewhat of an ambivert and crave time spent with other people. We've almost run out of things to talk about because there is no external input, essentially. My boyfriend always says he will do new activities with me that I want to do, but I have to be the instigator, which puts a lot of pressure on me that I really dislike. He hasn't changed much in the past 5 years and is generally happy with who he is which is great for him, but I have changed a lot and am not sure if we are as compatible anymore. The biggest thing is that (and I feel sick admitting this) I am not really that attracted to him anymore. Our sex life is not great, mostly due to my lack of interest.

I recently moved to a different state without him for a short-term job opportunity and have been having an amazing time. I’ve met a bunch of new people whom I go out with often, am doing new activities, and am feeling free to do whatever I please. I thought I’d experience “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but talking to him just emphasizes how mundane the activities in our life were and I’m not missing him nearly as much as I thought. We had been discussing marriage and now I feel like I don’t want that at all – I just want freedom. However, I’m worried that I need to be more practical since this is just a short-term job and I shouldn’t throw a five-year relationship away just because I’m experiencing a rumspringa of sorts. I’m also worried I’ll never be able to find a guy as compatible humor- and interest-wise again.

He’s coming to visit me in a few weeks and I feel like I need to address my decision before then, but it’s all just making me sick inside and I’m scared to make a bad decision. I think he can sense there is something wrong and is desperate to keep me. There are some logistics also stressing me out but I know I shouldn’t factor those into my decision. I feel like we could maybe work on our relationship but I'm worried even after that I would still not be interested. Please can someone help me figure this out?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'd really recommend bringing this up with him well before the visit, perhaps via Skype or FaceTime or something else where you can see each other while talking. Maybe he's feeling similarly and maybe he's oblivious; it seems to me that, should your relationship continue, this is something you really need to discuss with one another openly and honestly. If you two decide to break up, then you'll have a bit of closure; if you two decide to stay together, you have a starting point for improvement.

And if you just want our "blessing" to break up? Go for it! The fact that you start by saying you two are "perfect together" but then mention how you're not truly very happy tells me that this is what you really want. I'd argue that no match is "perfect" but that a great match has room for complimentary/complementary differences, perhaps important ones that are missing from your current relationship.
posted by smorgasbord at 5:55 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I’m also worried I’ll never be able to find a guy as compatible humor- and interest-wise again.

Yeah, you will. I can't tell you whether to break up with him (though the fact that you're having a great time without him and fell bored when you're with him isn't a good sign), but don't let this fear be a factor in your decision. You will eventually find someone else you like even better (and are not bored with).
posted by languagehat at 5:56 PM on August 16, 2015 [17 favorites]

Some people get bored with their relationships because the relationship isn't new and exciting anymore. You are bored with your relationship because you are in a relationship with someone boring. Despite the word choice, that's not a negative judgement -- lots of people like to have a very home-centered life, where they hang out together all the time and don't do a lot of things outside the home and there's nothing wrong with that. The problem arises because he is that kind of person and you aren't that kind of person.

You don't have to make a snap decision while you're away, but it doesn't sound like this relationship is fulfilling for you -- you don't have sex, you don't have anything to talk about anymore, and you don't enjoy the same activities. Sure, he gets your sense of humour, and that's important, but it's not enough to build a marriage on without all those other things.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:03 PM on August 16, 2015 [12 favorites]

What sold me was your phrasing that you're feeling free to do whatever you please – that says a lot. I think you're facing the fact that your relationship has run its course. Do not get caught up in the "sunk cost" fallacy – you're still very young, and many other possibilities will open up for you. Good luck!
posted by zadcat at 6:05 PM on August 16, 2015 [13 favorites]

jacquilynne and zadcat have said brilliant things.

I want to say, don't feel guilty about these feelings. They are completely valid, and it seems to me you know what would be in your best interests here. Perhaps you fear hurting him -- it's better to let him down now, I think. No one should be excited to marry someone who isn't excited to marry them. He deserves to find that person, just as you do.
posted by NatalieWood at 6:16 PM on August 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Nobody can tell you whether to break up or not, and it sounds as though this is what you want to do. You will find someone great again-- so if that's the reassurance you want, go for it. You're too young to be worried about not finding other equally good options.

One question: Have you ever talked to him about wanting to go out more and do more things? If not, he could justifiably be pretty angry at being left for a relationship flaw which had never been identified as a flaw.

This doesn't mean you should stay, for sure. Sometimes things just go too far and you no longer even want to fix them. But then be honest with him and yourself that you should have flagged it earlier, but you didn't, and now it's too late. It would be meaner to let him think he can fix things if he can't.
posted by frumiousb at 6:16 PM on August 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Two points:
First, although the details are always unique, I think the following general rule holds: if you take the time to write into a blog asking if you should break up with your significant other, you should break up. Maybe not for the issue under discussion, but for the sake of the other person.

Second, having given you my general rule, I will say the reason you give is pretty weak. Of course life is more exciting when everything is new. That's to be expected, and it doesn't mean there is a problem with the relationship. If everything was still so much better a year from now that would be a different story.

To sum up: I don't think you've offered a justifying reason here, but I still think you should break it off. For his sake.
posted by girl flaneur at 6:22 PM on August 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

My husband is like your boyfriend by personality, and I am more like you. We've been married 21 years.

I really can't tell you whether you should break up or not. I am deeply in love with my husband and I find him sexy, but there have been times in our lives when I have mourned a bit that my life partner is not the type to buy tickets for a weekend in Paris, if you know what I mean. (And I bet you do.)

That said, the reason our relationship works is that I do not wait for him in order to do things. I have friends that joke I have a phantom husband because they have seen him so few times, but I see them all the time. I have travelled with friends and for work without him. I go to movies alone sometimes, because he doesn't want to go. I am truly okay with that; I love bringing those experiences home, and I recognize that his need is to nest. But it does mean I have to be "single" sometimes and some people, I'm sure, judge us for it or think he hates them or something.

So I think you're getting insight into the life you want to build. Whether that is with him or without him, it's valuable insight.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:32 PM on August 16, 2015 [41 favorites]

When the relationship is standing between you and your better self, and you don't see this changing, it is time to let it go. It sounds like you have stopped growing in this relationship.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:36 PM on August 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

I’m also worried I’ll never be able to find a guy as compatible humor- and interest-wise again.

It sounds like you want to break up with him, and from your description you have totally valid reasons for doing so. (And, I agree with the people who say to do so sooner rather than waiting for the visit or for after your trip -- there's nothing to be gained by waiting.)

What I would add is that the world is a big place, you will continue to grow and change, and you will absolutely meet someone (in fact, you will meet many someones) who are compatible with your sense of humor and your interests.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:38 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

What would your life be like without a man?

That is the question you, and all young woman should be asking.

What would your life be without a man?

If you can answer that, honestly, then that is your answer. Not about him or his feelings or his family or what would happen if he he he he he said this this this or that that that.

What would your life be life without this man? What would you like it to be like?

These are only questions, but I feel like they are good questions.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:46 PM on August 16, 2015 [23 favorites]

As hard as it is, put aside the shared history you have with this man. Consider him as you would a stranger. What interests do you hold in common with him, currently? What life goals do you have in common? If you met him today, for the first time, would you be interested?

If all that is keeping you with him at this stage in your relationship is the mere fact that you have a relationship, then that's not enough.
posted by RainyJay at 7:14 PM on August 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

If I'm reading this right, you're now 25-ish and have been together since college? I'd say there's no time in life in which most people change more than their early 20s. It's almost to be expected that you feel like a different person now. And if you didn't get to "live it up" due to the seriousness of your relationship earlier, I can see feeing like you missed a phase most people go through.

I think in general boredom and a guy being a homebody are not super-great reasons to break up and you do sound like you have a little contempt for him that I'm not sure is warranted. But you're 25. (Ish) You get to break up basically for whatever reason in your early/mid 20s. I'd say do it, but try to be kind.
posted by quincunx at 7:20 PM on August 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Have you talked to him about this? Does he know this is an issue for you? If he knows, is he still not trying to do more fun things? Have you come up with an activity to do together, and seen how he reacts? Is he excited to try that activity with you or is he just getting through it so he can go home and be at home? Have you gone out in your city just like you do in your new city? If no, then why not?? What is stopping you? Are you not free to do as you please? Is your lack of sexual interest in him because he does not initiate any of the fun activities that you want in your life and does not initiate sex either? If yes, have you talked to him about that?

These are all questions that are not clear to me after reading your post. I am not sure what is stopping you from having the time of your life and going out by yourself in your city where you live with him, since going out with new people is something you obviously enjoy. Be careful about the whole grass-is-greener thing, because yea, it is always exciting to do a short-term job rotation and live in a new place, but I am wondering if you would end up with the same life as you lead now if you stayed in the new city - I am wondering how much you really tried to make your normal life more fun.

I am not saying not to break up with him, it sounds like you've passed the point where you could find yourself attracted to him, but your post made me wonder all those things. At 25 I wanted the same things you want right now and I thought my older married friends led the most boring lives. At 30, I am so glad I am with someone who likes to stay home more often than not. However, he is excited about doing any activity I suggest, and makes an effort to initiate activities because we've talked about that being important to me.

However, if you have talked to him about this over and over, explained that it is important to you but he still doesn't try, asked him to come out more with you or with your friends and he refused, or if you tried to go out more without him and he reacted badly, then he is obviously not putting in the effort that is needed to stay in this relationship.
posted by at 7:32 PM on August 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

Honestly what makes long term relationships work out is wanting them to work out, even when it's hard.

It really sounds like you have no interest in doing that, and that's fine. There will be other relationships.
posted by KernalM at 7:41 PM on August 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

You're happier without him. Live your life and be kind enough to let him go so he can live his. Your time together has passed. End it now when you can still have some good feelings between each other and can move on happily.
posted by lunastellasol at 7:53 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have to echo that you are allowed to break up with someone for basically any reason, at your age. It's highly unlikely you will deeply regret ending this relationship for any serious period of time.

I'm 26 and I've been with my boyfriend since I was 21. We are both shy homebodies and we tend to really like that about each other. Even though I wish I had more friends and got out more, I'm still glad my boyfriend is a kindred spirit.

Two things stick with me here: 1) that this is a relatively new experience, so you're not sure yet if this new way you feel is for real. I think it probably is for real-- the high won't last forever, but you seem rejuvenated by being on your own, and like you've changed a lot. I also agree that you'll find someone else with a matching sense of humor... you shouldn't even worry about that. I have a super uncommon personality type on the Myers-Briggs, if you believe in that kind of stuff, and I have never had trouble finding someone to date (I actually feel like I should've spent more time being single in my early 20s!).

And 2) my boyfriend and I are happy being homebodies, but we DEFINITELY bring new subjects/interests to the table all the time... new travel ideas, new hobbies, new interests, things we've read/are reading, expanding our comfort zone (we went camping together this year for the first time), etc. If my boyfriend didn't want to do new stuff, my adventurous spirit would be seriously quashed. I know people like that, who I like very much as people, and even have a TON in common with... but I don't think I could really seriously date them. Being an introvert doesn't necessarily mean not being adventurous.
posted by easter queen at 8:02 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

The attraction thing... I think if you date someone for any length of time, you'll eventually have to deal with the fact that attraction waxes and wanes. So I wouldn't put too much stock in that. If you are horny and want to have sex with other people, it's OK to not be ready for monogamy yet. But personally, I'd want to be pretty sure the relationship was over before I broke up for that reason. That's just me, it's fine if you're different.
posted by easter queen at 8:04 PM on August 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Being IN LOVE is a very overrated Western concept mostly fed by the advertising and cinema industries, which explains why people in the West always envisage marriage like a swirling romance, a knee down proposal, Mendelssohn's wedding march to the altar and happiness ever after (with a 50% divorce rate further down). I think things don't happen that way for 95% of humanity and you shouldn't be fixated on the trappings of modern love as they are the cause of much unhappiness for all those who think they have "failed" to live up to the romantic standard.

What you have in your current relationship, shared humour and values and a history together, is strong and solid and sounds to me like the basis for a stable union.

Your boyfriend is unlikely to change so you have to learn to live and have fun and experience new things independently. Read what warriorqueen said. Then read it again.
posted by Kwadeng at 8:45 PM on August 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

1. Breaking up with an SO of 5 years is a big deal, particularly if you're living together. It does hurt.

2. You do not have to break up with someone to do things without them.

3. If you do stuff you enjoy and your SO isn't doing it with you, and they are upset with you, that's not necessarily your problem.
posted by billjings at 9:28 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, if you're unhappy in the relationship, you're unhappy and need to end it. That said, based on what you've written, I can't see any compelling reasons to do that right away. I agree with Kwadeng that the cinematic "I love you but am not in love with you" ideal is artificial, meaningless, and pretty much impossible, and at least some of what you've said sounds like that's what you're grasping after.

Similar life goals and history are important. And even more than that, is genuine love and kindness between each other. If you've brought all of this up with him and had a discussion on how to rearrange your life so you're happier with it, and he shoots you down or refuses to accommodate, then it's certainly time to leave. But it really sounds like you've been a willing participant in your shared homebody lifestyle, and this may come as a total shock to him.

As for being stuck at home because you don't have friends, you can always make friends of your own back home, separate from him. The idea of a couple sharing every aspect of their lives is also a very overrated modern concept. (Now, if he stands in your way of doing your own thing, then you have a problem.) And talking about people changing, that's _always_ going to happen, whether it's your 20s or 30s or 60s or the birth of a child or a crisis. No one can possibly have a long term relationship of any nature if they're so afraid of change.

Sexual attraction waxes and wanes in a relationship, and based on what you've said, it's really hard to know whether you're in the waning part of a cycle, or something more permanent.

Also, going to a new city is usually rejuvenating and lovely and makes you question your life back home. But you've also not fully experienced that new life in which you're just a visitor now. Those new friends and activities may get boring or exhausting after a while. Or not. Either way, you should probably talk about all this to your boyfriend, without the emotional tension of a break-up, and see how it goes.
posted by redlines at 9:35 PM on August 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

We don’t have any friends so we spend all our time together

A new boyfriend doesn't fix this. You need to develop other friendships, interests and relationships. Asking one person to fulfill all your needs is counterproductive - especially if you are not similar in extra/introversion. Marriage is not a three-legged race where you can't do anything apart from your partner.

Instead of tossing out your relationship, why not discuss ways that you could have more time to spend on other interests and friendships.
posted by 26.2 at 10:20 PM on August 16, 2015 [18 favorites]

Those new friends and experiences you're having in this new place? You can totally have those in your normal home too. If you are bored with staying home all the time, don't stay home all the time! There is no requirement that to be in a relationship you most both like doing exactly the same things and have the same friends. You may find that if you start doing other things, it gives you more to talk about, and rekindles interest between the two of you. If you are less bored overall, your sex life may also improve.

You may also find that it gives you more clarity over whether you still want to be with your boyfriend. If you don't, of course you can break up with him. But it seems silly to throw it all away when there are heaps of things you could try to reduce your boredom and improve the relationship. I agree with others, talk to your boyfriend without making it into some kind of ultimatum. Explore how you can take responsibility for amusing yourself and fulfilling your own needs for friendship and activity rather than relying on someone else to drive that for you, or automatically involving your boyfriend just because you're in a relationship with him.

It also seems pretty callous to be thinking that you have to have decided the future of the relationship by the time that he comes to visit, when you will announce your unilateral decision. Doesn't he get a chance, a say?
posted by Athanassiel at 10:23 PM on August 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

You're bored, you're not interested in sex with him, you have a non-existent social life which you've learned is not the way you want to live. These are reasons enough to part ways. I've been with my husband for nearly 14 years now, and I'm here to say I don't think being bored and not having the sex you want to be having are normal things that otherwise great couples experience-- they are signs of problems in the relationship and/or a fundamental lack of compatibility.

I had to do a double take on your age because you sound so much like my parents who are in their late 60s and had long ago made the mistake of marrying "safe" people who were not all that special. Don't do that. You are way too young to be this unhappy and stagnant in a relationship. And you're not even married! So why live like a stereotypical old married person in your mid-20s? Cut him loose. Go have some adventures while you're young. You have the rest of your life to go be a homebody with some dude you're not all that thrilled about. Nothing wrong with being a homebody (I myself embrace those same tendencies) but clearly that safe, boring path you've gone down these last 5 years now isn't you being your best self right now. Honor that, and change your life so you can grow.
posted by hush at 10:30 PM on August 16, 2015 [10 favorites]

In what ways are you "perfect together"? From your description of the situation you sound miserable. It sounds like you are dreading seeing him again, and that is not a good sign.

It's great that you've had this opportunity to go out, meet people, and try new things away from your boyfriend. If this time away has been enough of a spark that you'll keep that up on your own, then you could talk to him about trying that within this relationship, but it sounds like you're done with it even if he actually started being helpful instead of dead-weight.

Breaking up with your boyfriend will not make everything better right away, but it would mean you can move on without resistance.
posted by mountmccabe at 10:39 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

No, you shouldn't. Being bored with someone is a really shitty reason to abandon someone, and it's all on you. You said you loved them because of who they were five years ago and that they haven't changed. It's like you're asking permission for wanting to abandon someone for giving you exactly what you asked for. That just....doesn't work. I mean, you should have thought of this before you got involved with this person.

If you want to be less bored, be less boring. That has nothing to do with your boyfriend. In fact, the relationship of securely attached people gives them a secure base that makes it easier to explore the world.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:26 PM on August 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

You need to start doing your own things -- finding things that challenge you and things that you enjoy. I mean you, singular. It would be best if he would do the same, but that's not your problem. If you left him, you'd still have to find your own things; you might as well go ahead and do it now, while you're with him. It will make you feel like your own person. It might give you two more things to talk about, or maybe not. It can take time; just make a start. Then do a little more. You think you need to find things for you and him to do as a couple, but that's not the case. Take care of yourself and your own mental, spiritual, and creative fulfillment. I'm not saying you need to rebuild your whole independent life... just that you should take some steps to enjoy yourself and your own interests.

Couples often get in a rut. They automatically think, "what should I be doing for my partner?" Ideally, each should take care of his/her own self. Act and advocate for yourself. He can do the same for himself if he's so inclined.

You can put aside the question of whether to let him go. The answer will become clear once you start seeing yourself as your primary responsibility.
posted by wryly at 11:39 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

There nothing wrong with doing things separately - my husband and I have really different interests (not in terms of outlook on life, but I like physical activities and he is more creative), so if we did everything together one of us would be really miserable and unfulfilled.

The difference is that I don't find him boring at all - when we do stuff together it is fantastic, far better than doing things on my own because he's there.

Organise a few things with your boyfriend while he's here and see how it goes - is it fun, or is he a drag? If it's a drag then definitely break up because you really aren't compatible, if it's actually really fun then consider if you can just do more fun stuff at home, with or without him, and see how that goes. Equally if the idea of including him in your new fun life sounds depressing and limiting, break up now.
posted by tinkletown at 3:59 AM on August 17, 2015

I'm going to take a minute and unpack your question.

The problem is for some time I’ve been just feeling bored.

Well, the fix for this in ANY relationship would be to talk to your partner, explain the problem, and see how they want to help problem-solve this. NO WAY should this all be on you.

We don’t have any friends so we spend all our time together – hang out together at home, go out to eat together, then go back home.

Well, are you okay with this?

He is very introverted so is generally fine with this, whereas I am somewhat of an ambivert and crave time spent with other people.

Apparently not. And that's fine.

We've almost run out of things to talk about because there is no external input, essentially.

Pretty much the definition of boring.

My boyfriend always says he will do new activities with me that I want to do, but I have to be the instigator, which puts a lot of pressure on me that I really dislike.

Oh. So bearing the burden of emotional labor falls on you. This is part of a pattern, him letting YOU deal with all of that sh*t. He's not changing his game in order to make your relationship better; he's not responding to your requests for an equal partnership. He's giving you MORE work to do while he sits back and expects a pat on the head for being cooperative.

This, ladies, is a dealbreaker. It is a pattern that will not change unless he wants it to change.

He does not want it to change.

He hasn't changed much in the past 5 years and is generally happy with who he is which is great for him,

He's not going to change.

but I have changed a lot and am not sure if we are as compatible anymore.

You're not. You want an equal partner. He is not going to become that person.

The biggest thing is that (and I feel sick admitting this) I am not really that attracted to him anymore. Our sex life is not great, mostly due to my lack of interest.

Dude. This was a running theme in the EL thread. Bluntly, we don't want to f*ck children. When we're put in the position of taking on all the EL in a relationship and we're doing SO MUCH for our partners ("You want to stay in? Ok. You want to go to dinner and come home? Ok. You want to sit around and not interact with others? Ok." while deep down you're like, "WTF? I do everything for you; can you NOT just once try to please me?") that they become things we care for, like children. And we do NOT want to f*ck those dependent upon us.)

So. Break up with him. Don't have him come to visit; it's going to make things worse. You have a history of doing all the work and it's time to cut it off.

Break up. Get out there (on Crone Island) and experience life as a person who is wonderfully free of having to please someone else and is living life with her foremost thought being, "What do I want? What will make ME happy?"
posted by kinetic at 4:23 AM on August 17, 2015 [13 favorites]

One of the warning signs in my LTR was that I looked forward to having time without her. Take that for what it's worth.
posted by deathpanels at 4:28 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think your boyfriend is the side issue here, actually. I don't think you should break up because he's boring and you don't do fun stuff together, and I hate to break it to you, but it's pretty usual for people to hit a sexual trough about 5-7 years into a relationship. If you break up with your boyfriend for these reasons, I think you have about a 75% chance of writing this exact same AskMe in another 5-7 years with your next boyfriend.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't break up, though. One perfectly valid reason to break up is because you're not in the right life stage for a long term relationship. You're 25, and it's totally fine to want to just go out and have fun with lots of different people! Maybe your "boredom" is really your gut saying you're not right for each other-- maybe what you are interpreting as boredom is discomfort having deep conversations, or a lack of trust, or something else that would really mean you're not a great long term partner. Or even just because you don't want to marry your college sweetheart. All these are ok!

But if you are the kind of person who can't go out and have a social life apart from her partner, or if you are expecting new relationship energy (NRE) to last forever in a relationship, that's probably something to figure out on your own (either within the context of this relationship or out of it), rather than depending on your partner (this one or any future) to fix it.

Why don't you see what it's like being with him in your new "exciting" life when he visits? Or see if you can bring some of that excitement back to your old life when this phase of you job ends? Or, rather than asking MeFi what to do, flip a coin. If you immediately tell yourself "best two out of three" then you know what your gut is telling you to do: always do that.
posted by instamatic at 4:40 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mmmm... I look forward to having time alone as well, but I do not think that in and of itself is a warning sign: I am equally looking forward to spending time together; I just enjoy both modes of being equally.

But yeah, think about how you would feel if your time in this new city came to an end and you had to go back. Sinking feeling? Then maybe it's time to go.

I was you, in 2005: mid-twenties, 7-year relationship. Breaking up was a great move. Nobody can expect you to be the same person you were in your early twenties - you hardly knew what it was like to be an adult back then, you hardly knew yourself. You know yourself better now. It would be unfair to yourself to keep forcing your life to follow the pattern 20-year-old you established, I think. Breaking up would be the healthy thing to do.
posted by Skyanth at 4:46 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

And wow, I really got a different view of this question than kinetic. In theory I agree about emotional work, but as an introvert female, if you flip the script, I'd think "you are bored, so I have to figure out stuff to do to entertain you? Why do I have to do your emotional work for you?" I mean, yes, an awesome relationship will have both partners compromising on their comfort zones and planning things their partner would enjoy. But "introvert doesn't plan exciting social life for bored extrovert" is not what I'd tend to see as childlike shirking of emotional work, but maybe more the opposite- expecting your partner to provide excitement and social planning they do not enjoy to keep you from being bored is more like avoiding emotional labor. To me.
posted by instamatic at 4:51 AM on August 17, 2015 [11 favorites]

To maybe give you something from a different perspective, I'm probably at least a little like your boyfriend, and like warriorqueen's husband. I'm mostly introverted, though that's partially due to anxiety. I don't do super well with spontaneous trips or plans. Traveling means strong flight anxiety and general worry.

My boyfriend knows this about me, though, and claims to be/seems to be okay with it. I encourage him to do things he wants to do without me, or if it's important we do it together, I help him arrange it in a way that makes it more comfortable for me.

One thing that stood out to me in your post is that neither of you have many (any?) friends. This is often a killer in relationships, and definitely contributed to the downfall of my last one. It's important to have people and interests outside the relationship. No wonder you guys have nothing to talk about, because all you've got is each other. If you're going to try and stay together, you should encourage each other to open up outside the relationship, seek new friends, etc.

If you're discontent with his personality or habits, I'd have a heart-to-heart with him and see if you can meet halfway on things. But it's also okay if you can't or don't want to. There's more than enough time for you to find someone you're compatible with.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:06 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

It kinda sounds like you just want to break up, which is fine! You don't need our permission to do that.

But, if you want to work on this relationship, I would suggest that you work on this "feeling bored and we only ever stay home and don't have friends" thing first. You do not need your boyfriend to create an awesome and active social life for yourself -- and, in fact, if you break up with him you will 100% be doing this on your own because you will be single! I am definitely way more of an extrovert than my husband, and so I have a wider group of friends/range of activities that I'll go out and do. Sometimes he will join us, and sometimes not. This is fine! It would only become a problem if he tried to tell me "No, I don't want you to go and hang out with other people, we must be homebodies together, always!" But of course he doesn't do that, and I don't get the sense from your question that your boyfriend is doing that either.

So basically, I would take this attitude of "free to do whatever I please", and keep doing it at home -- make plans, meet people, go do exciting things! Offer them up to your boyfriend, not as an "instigator" or "organizer", but just as "Hey, I'm meeting John and Jodi at the art museum Saturday afternoon and then we might go see the new Mission Impossible movie after -- you're welcome to join for one or both if you want!" And then let him do him, and you have a great time either way. And who knows -- maybe you'd still feel bored with your boyfriend and like you really want a partner who DOES want to share in all your social outings, but maybe not. I know for myself I really value having independent activities and friendships, because I don't particularly want to be around my husband ALL THE TIME (and he also values alone time, so this works out well).
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:22 AM on August 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was in that position in my 20s. Moved across the country with my boyfriend. We didn't have a lot of friends in the new location. Didn't do a lot. Settled into a boring routine. Not unhappy, but not great. We got engaged, but he ended up breaking up with me before the wedding. It was a relief. I don't know that I would have ever had the courage to end it, but I'm glad he did. We would have been happy enough, but it's better to be in a relationship with someone you love AND respect. I took some time to live my life, discover who I was, and then when I was ready, I met a great guy. Got married at 31.

So I'm saying, if you're not feeling it, it's ok to let it go. It may be better for you both in the end. Can you make it work as is? Probably, but why?
posted by hydra77 at 6:44 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree with rainbowbrite.

Having your own friends and an active social life is really important to the health of a relationship. And it's actually a skill you have to develop and practice. If you didn't know that before, you've now learned through experience.

The thing is, you can't blame your not having friends or a social life on your boyfriend -- that's on you. It seems like you two have become co-dependent, and I wonder if you would repeat this same pattern in another relationship.

Everyone needs alone time and social time outside of a romantic relationship. So.. how are you going to get it? You are going to have to talk to him, communicate your needs and then set aside time to actually be alone or go participate in a hobby and try to make friends. Since you haven't done this in at least 5 years, it's going to be really hard. You may need to read books or seek out advice about "getting a life" outside of a relationship. You may have to tell him that you also think he should get a hobby and make some friends, because you don't want to be his only source of emotional support. But for now, you need to focus on what you can control - and what you can control is your own ability to get a life.

The fact that you don't find him sexually attractive anymore.. well, I wouldn't find Halle Berry sexually attractive either if I had to spend every waking hour with her. Distance does make the heart grow fonder, if it's practiced regularly. In your case, feeling happier and better during your short term work trip is not necessarily an indication that your relationship has run its course (although maybe it has -- what do I know?) -- it's an indication that you really, really need to get a life outside of this relationship. Of course you feel great without him around right now.. you haven't had a moment to breathe for five fucking years.

It would be much easier to just break up with him. But I think you should first try to build a few relationship skills that will serve you in the future -- either with this guy, or the next person. Communicate your dissatisfaction and your social needs to him in a loving way. Then get a life. Then see what happens.
posted by Gray Skies at 6:48 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you told him any of this? Have you said hey lets go do things or that you would like to do something? Does he realise just how much of a relationship breaker your current rut you are in is? Have you organised activities for the two of you to do together & he's refused to go?

Of course the new stuff you are doing with new people is exciting it's new for petes sake. New places & people are super exciting & fun, for about 3-6 months then the homesickness kicks in as the newness wears off. You're the one wanting to do the new stuff, why shouldn't you be the one organizing it, the fact that he is happy to go & do those things with you is great. Is he stopping you from going out & having other friends or new hobbies when you are at home or are you? These are all things you may want to consider. But hey you're 25 & the shiney new things are shiney and new, so you're not going to listen to the suggestions of an old fart like me that maybe you & your partner could work on this, maybe see a relationship counselor. As someone that just spent the past year working on a relationship that had reach the same place & has started to come out the other side with something that seems stronger & better than ever my advice would be to work on your relationship, but I'm 20 years older than you & a bit more cynical about the awesomeness of "new" things.
posted by wwax at 8:07 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Almost all relationships go through a five to seven year itch phase. You can break up with him if you really want but I'd suggest it's worth having a deep and serious talk about the future and see if you want to work together to fix things.
posted by Candleman at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2015

My boyfriend always says he will do new activities with me that I want to do, but I have to be the instigator, which puts a lot of pressure on me that I really dislike.

Just to address this particular piece of your post, it might be helpful to let him know this, and to see if you can get him to commit to planning, say, one activity a month for the two of you. Set some ground rules -- like for instance:

1. It can't always be just a movie (or whatever basic boring thing you know would be his default)
2. He has to initiate making plans without you reminding him
3. It doesn't have to be a surprise (so he can check with you on your schedule)
4. It doesn't have to be a big production.
5. Etc.

The reason I think this might be helpful is that if he is "desperate not to lose you" and he is generally a guy who keeps his word when he agrees to do something, it should not be difficult for him to commit to. If it is, then that is a big clue that things are always going to be just like they are and that is good information to have.

Giving someone something specific to do is generally much more effective than non-specific complaints "you never initiate anything", "why do I always have to make all the plans", "I want us to do more fun things". The difference with this is you are telling him specifically how to fix the biggest things: "I want us to do more fun things, I don't always want to be the one to plan them, and I don't always want to be the one to initiate."

If he really has never planned or suggested stuff to do, you might need to show him how to find out what kind of activities are happening in your area. Community calendar website, entertainment section of the newspaper, etc.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:20 PM on August 17, 2015

I think you should talk to him. Breaking up (or not) can be a joint decision. Maybe doing the standard "talk about your problems" and "doing some things to put the excitement back into your relationship" will make things better, maybe they will make you realise you have reached the point of no return. If you do decide to break up, it will probably be a lot easier on you both if it is "a decision we made together" rather than "she dumped him".
posted by intensitymultiply at 2:36 AM on August 18, 2015

an awesome relationship will have both partners compromising on their comfort zones and planning things their partner would enjoy.

That's exactly what I meant in that this relationship is NOT awesome. Her BF has said that he will do new things with her, as long as she does all the planning.

There's no compromise here. She has been staying within his comfort levels for the entire relationship and his response to her request for him to step outside of his comfort zone and make her happy is pretty much that if she does all the work he'll show up.
posted by kinetic at 4:07 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's no reason that each partner needs to do 50% of every task. Sometimes you let the person who wants to move something forward lead the activity. OP wants to have more external friendships while her partner is introverted. He supports her when she leads on things which matter to her.

I play board games when my husband invites friends over for a game night, but I'm never the person who coordinates the game group, invites people or picks the games. That doesn't make me a horrible partner. That makes me a partner who allows her partner to do stuff he likes for the both of us.
posted by 26.2 at 8:59 AM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

OP here. Thank you everyone, for your advice. I broke up with my boyfriend. I feel like I'm dying inside but I think I've made the right decision. Only time will tell, I suppose.
posted by throwaway123 at 8:03 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

You made the exact right decision, and you took a very brave first step towards living more authentically. Be gentle with yourself at this time-- the first weeks are the hardest.
posted by hush at 4:19 PM on August 22, 2015

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