How to fall out of love
December 13, 2005 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I have no problems falling in love - it's falling out I need some help with.

I fell for a guy over the internet 5 months ago, behind my boyfriend's back. We felt really strongly for each other (I think this might be an understatement), and a while ago he drove 600 miles to visit me. Everything went pretty well--no, I'm not pregnant or anything--but eventually I had to tell my boyfriend of nearly 4 years that I'd been living a lie. I've promised to stay with the boyfriend and break it off with the out-of-towner. After a self-imposed month of no communication, I thoguht it was maybe time to set on the road to being friends with him--I feel that the best thing that could come from this is he and I still being close friends, becuase I so very much want to be able to care about him. It was too soon, though, as I'd progressed much faster than he, sicne I had someone there for support when he did not. After a few exchanges it's become clear that I'm heading back where I started, and it feels like I've just wasted or undone a month. I'd like any advice you might have on how to break this off, specifically ways that could help him. I know I can deal with my own problems in the matter, and I want to help him, but his pain is too much for me to bare without falling back to him again. Just for clarification to this matter: we're both young college-age, although he isn't in college. He attempted suicide early in that month mentioned, and wasn't talked out of it so much as threatened out of it by a mutual internet friend (who was going to call the cops on him). I've also been rather suicidal, but I can't bring msyelf to cause that much mroe pain on the people I care about, even if it means I wouldn't have to hurt anymore. He still loves me and I still love him. And we need to stop.

(apologies - spell check doesn't seem to actually work. I tried to proofread best I can.)
posted by luftmensch to Human Relations (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds to me like you chose wrong. Do the right thing and break up with the boyfriend. It'll be better for all three of you.
posted by Plutor at 9:11 AM on December 13, 2005

I think you need to break off all contact with this guy.

Why it's good for the guy: Hard as it is and heartless as it may seem, you need to stop being this guy's emotional support system. Breaking things off means just that -- that you're not the primary emotional caregiver for each other anymore -- and you need to teach him that he can stand on his own two feet. You can only do that by pulling yourself out of his life.

Why it's good for you & your boyfriend: From my perspective, you can't maintain an intense emotional relationship with this guy (even if it's just platonic) and still keep your boyfriend. You promised your boyfriend you'd break it off, and again, you need to do that: Break it off. Not get pulled back into a wishy-washy ill-defined quasi-relationship with him.

If you can't break if off with this guy, I think you need to tell your boyfriend that you can't keep your promise and end *that* relationship. But I don't think you can have relationships with both these men, even if you're hoping that one of them stays "just friends." You've seen that that won't work.
posted by occhiblu at 9:17 AM on December 13, 2005

Why, exactly, did you choose to stay with the current boyfriend? I mean, even if you don't go off with internet man, you fell in love with another man, it doesn't sound like the makings of a lasting relationship with guy number #1.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:25 AM on December 13, 2005

1 month isn't enough time. I've hard that it takes 6 months of no contact to get over somebody (a number which I'm sure was pulled out of nowhere, but it's a good place to start from). If you have any contact at all with the person in that time frame, it resets the clock.

You can't be friends with this person right now, so don't even try.
posted by willnot at 9:29 AM on December 13, 2005

Response by poster: Why, exactly, did you choose to stay with the current boyfriend?

A nubmer of reasons, some good, some not so good. I care about him so much. We've had a lot of great history together. I KNOW we have a good thing, and I recognize that not all the fire I'm feeling for the other guy will stay; I'm aware that there's an aspect of exciting-newness to take in. Practicality: boyfriend has proximity, other doesn't, at all. Boyfriend has college and a job. Boyfriend's parents like me. I know that a lot of these things are not "what you should base a decision on"; but I think they're valid, if small, factors to consider. I'm sure there's more, but I have to run to make a final. I'll be happy to answer mroe questions. Self-analysis is fun.
posted by luftmensch at 9:34 AM on December 13, 2005

Leave the guy alone. You dumped him for someone else, you don't get to help him except by leaving him alone to heal. You don't get to be friends after a month (try a couple of years, or maybe never), which is also known as both having and eating cake.

Both of you are manufacturing drama (relationships and breakups don't have to be like this), the dangerous kind that generates suicide attempts. Stop. This is not how people show their love, it doesn't mean more if it hurts more, you don't get any extra credit for "being there for him." Contact sounds terribly unhealthy for you both.

I think you should get to a therapist and work on taking care of yourself. That is the kindest thing you can do for this other man and your boyfriend, is to be a stable, healthy person who makes rationally-motivated decisions and has a grip on her feelings. I know it's an awful situation, for which the ultimate answer is probably that you won't end up with either of them, and the only thing you really get to control here is you. Do that, and it really will be a gift to everyone involved, especially yourself.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:44 AM on December 13, 2005

1) Break it off with internet guy, period. No "just friends", nothing. No emails, no IM's. This is the equivalent of ripping the bandaid off quickly. Write your last email to him and then sayonara. His actions, his emotional state, these are under HIS control, not yours.

2) Thank your lucky stars that Boyfriend still wants a relationship with you. Make him your focus. Take all that energy, all that excitement and use those to repair the damage that you have done.
posted by willmize at 9:48 AM on December 13, 2005

But boyfriend is not the love of your life, obviously. You're doing neither him nor yourself any favors by sticking around. Put yourself out there and live, rather than stick with what's safe. Staying with Boyfriend because he's, well, there and his parents like you is incredibly lame. Learn to love yourself, be by yourself and feel safe with yourself.
posted by raysmj at 9:49 AM on December 13, 2005

First of all, ask yourself, clearly and carefully: who do you want to be with? It sounds like the answer is guy #1, the 'boyfriend of nearly 4 years,' but you might not even really want to be with him, and you're the only person on the face of the planet who can answer that question. Everything hinges on it.

If you do want to be with guy #1, it sounds like you know what you need to do: don't talk to guy #2, don't correspond with him, don't try to be friends with him. Nothing. You can't do anything to help him.

If he's suicidal, then the last thing he needs is an emotionally involving relationship. What he needs right now is friendship, maybe through his family, and he needs those friends to be present, not through the internet. He needs to spend time with people he trusts and who care about him. No one can do that but him. If you're concerned about him, tell his family or the person who you think he's closest to exactly what you're concerned about, and then stay out of it.

This is also very important for the relationship you say you want to stay in. Don't talk to guy #2 again. Block his email address, don't respond to instant messages, and don't accept his calls. You both have to get out of this on your own. And I guarantee you, from personal experience, that even a year from now, even two years from now, even ten years from now, if you believe that it's suddenly safe to talk to guy #2 again, it will still hurt guy #1 immensely if you do. If you want to be with guy #1, there is absolutely no reason to ever talk to guy #2 again. Until you're comfortable with that, then you're not even ready to be with guy #1; if you really want to be with guy #1, you should start getting ready fast.

Finally, I don't doubt that all this is very hard. That's why you need to be around friends too right now, good, solid, stable friends. Think of the people you've trusted most in the past and talk to them, whether they're your parents, your school friends, whatever. It sounds like you've been through some real shit recently, and the fact that you might have caused some of it doesn't change the fact that it's been hard. Maybe you need to take some time off of school; at the very least, take good care of yourself. You mention that you've had suicidal feelings too, although you don't want to hurt the people around you. Does guy #1 know this? It's not imperative that you tell him, but even if you haven't, if he really loves you, I'll bet he's somewhat worried about you. Spend time with him, and spend time with those you can trust. Talking with those closest to you is imperative; it's by slowly talking this stuff through that we eventually deal with it. It might be painful for everybody if you explained all the details of what happened to your boyfriend; that's why I suggest you find someone else you can trust to talk to, cry to, and lean on. Finally, a good shrink can been helpful. I say that out of experience; it can help you in rough times to have someone to tell your problems to.
posted by koeselitz at 10:00 AM on December 13, 2005

Eject. Willmize has it right. You're not responsible for his pain or anyone else's for that matter. You're only responsible for doing things wrong. Looks like dumping both is really what is in your best interest. Therapist time for sure.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:01 AM on December 13, 2005

Maybe you really need to take a look at what makes you happy. So many people stay together for the wrong reasons (and I'm not saying your reasons are wrong) when they should move on. The hard part is admitting that it is time to go. Something is missing from your current situation, or else you wouldn't have had another, you've got to figure out what you want/need.
posted by Todd Lokken at 10:05 AM on December 13, 2005

Yeah, I feel really bad for your "boyfriend" here... I can't imagine why he's still with you after being subjected to this behaviour, but that's another story. It's hard for us to give advice here because there are more complicated issues beyond dumping the internet guy. If you don't love your "real" boyfriend for who he is but enjoy the comfort that the circumstances of his companionship provides, than that is worse than any problems you may have accrued from a relationship with a bipolar internet personality. You've got a lot of things to straighten out, and you should probably do that by yourself.
posted by prostyle at 10:05 AM on December 13, 2005

prostyle: "I can't imagine why he's still with you after being subjected to this behaviour, but that's another story."

This is flagged, along with other responses here. Moralizing and holier-than-thou shit hardly ever belongs on askMefi. But I'm only commenting on it because it bears particular important in this thread: shit, people, it sounds like she knows what pain she's caused already, and she's faced it by admitting it to the person she hurt. She doesn't need you all to stand around sneering about 'this behavior.' She needs advice. She is a person, you know, a person who's had to deal with her share of pain. As I said above, "the fact that [she] might have caused some of it doesn't change the fact that it's been hard." Get out, guy.

posted by koeselitz at 10:13 AM on December 13, 2005

"young college age," means what, exactly? 18-20? anywhere from 16-22? regardless, you've been with your boyfriend since you were anywhere from 12-16, i'm guessing. staying with him because you care about him, because there's stability, because he can provide for you with his job and his education are really not the right reasons to stay with him, and it's incredibly unfair to both of you to stay in a relationship where you're distracted by other people.

falling in love with someone on the internet takes a large time commitment (i know from experience). you've spent countless hours emailing, chatting with, and talking to this other guy on the phone, and each of those hours constitutes time spent being unfaithful to your boyfriend. you're still very, very young and being single at this point or breaking off your relationship isn't the end of the world. if he's not the only one you have eyes for and if you're not so crazy in love with him that you can't even think of anyone else, it's not worth it.

to answer your ACTUAL question, you can't help other guy by being there for him. the only way you can help him, and your "relationship" is by completely cutting off contact for at least 6 months, but probably it will take longer. if for any reason you relapse and talk to him or see him, it will all come flooding back to you. i know this from experience as well.
posted by booknerd at 10:24 AM on December 13, 2005

Definitely cut off contact with internet boy -- it's the only way to be fair to you, him, and boyfriend. The best thing you can do for internet boy is to encourage him to see a therapist and get support from his local friends. After that, you need to remove the source of pain from his life (that is, your ongoing relationship).

As a practical matter, recruit a couple of friends (internet or otherwise) who you can email/IM/call instead when you want to contact internet boy.
posted by footnote at 10:27 AM on December 13, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all the (conflicting) advice so far, it's good to get some views of people who aren't weighted by their emotional stakes in the matter (either guy, friends, family). Keep it coming. And honestly I don't mind what koeselitz referred to as moralizing. I've done some awful things, and you're right, it's surprising that my boyfriend is willing to work through all this. Especially considering one thing I neglected to mention: internet guy was his internet best friend for over a year prior. We played online games together.

I'm more than hesitant to break it off with boyfriend. Hesitant is not even close to the right word but I can't think of it. Besides the (admittedly lame) reasons posted earlier, I really feel like I'd be taking the cheap, easy and most likely wrong way out to just give up now. I'm under a lot of stress - it's currently finals time, I've been screwing up my grades a bit and risk losing my scholarship and living in shame/debt for my next three and a half years and then some. The thing I've been telling myself is that I need to pick something and give it time. I feel like if I abandon him for internet guy, in four years that relationship too will have its little faults showing, the sparkliness will be gone, and my heart may go a-wander again.
posted by luftmensch at 10:54 AM on December 13, 2005

Do you need help falling out of love with someone or help to stop being infatuated with someone? It probably doesn't matter which one it is, the solution is the same: Cut off all contact with the person and let it go.

(That's all you asked in the question, however, here's my personal opinion. Because you didn't ask for Happydaz's personal opinion you can stop reading right here if you like.)

What are you doing, exactly? Why are you still interested in this guy? Why can't you provide any reasons for staying with your long-term boyfriend other than stability? Do yourself a favor, cut off contact with the internet guy, break up with your boyfriend and figure out what you want for your life. Get some therapy, as others have said, and find a reason for living that doesn't involve taking care of one boy, or two.
posted by Happydaz at 10:56 AM on December 13, 2005

Thanks everyone for all the (conflicting) advice so far

There may be some diversity of opinion, but the large majority of commenters are telling you to break off all contact with the Internet boy. I agree with that assessment, based on several past relationships. Just break off all contact. You're not helping by continuing. It may feel good, sorta in the way picking a scab feels good, but it won't help you or him heal.

Oh, and if you're feeling depressed and/or suicidal, you should please, please, please talk to someone about it. Most colleges have someone to help with that sort of thing. Please get the help you need.
posted by alms at 11:09 AM on December 13, 2005

I want to help him, but his pain is too much for me to bare without falling back to him again [snip] He attempted suicide early in that month mentioned, and wasn't talked out of it so much as threatened out of it by a mutual internet friend

Then he needs to see a mental health professional. If you're sticking with your boyfriend, all you can do is drama the new guy's life up and make your current boyfriend miserable. You can't fix either relationship and I'd wager that you do more harm than good. You don't need help "falling out of love":If you really loved either one of them, you wouldn't do this sort of thing; it's purely selfish.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:16 AM on December 13, 2005

Response by poster: The conflict seems to be on my decision in general. Those who want to help me stick with he boyfriend advise me to cut it off, while a few others say to drop him and run with the new guy, and a couple say to drop everything. I just have a hard time disregarding their feelings. Boyfriend loves me so deeply and always has. One big problem is that for both of them, I met them at rather depressed points in their lives and brought them joy. That alone fosters affection, and makes the cut even deeper. I'm tired of hurting everyone.

On preview:
If you really loved either one of them, you wouldn't do this sort of thing; it's purely selfish.
What exactly are you referring to here? The fact that I fell in love in the first place? The fact that I hid it for three months? The fact that I'm doing everything wrong? I know that, thanks. I have to fix things somehow, and I'm asking for you people to help me find a way that isn't selfish. Thanks for your moral support. If I was really selfish I'd go off myself right now. Dropping them both seems like the second most selfish thing. I'm trying to make it so not everyone gets hurt. I've lost my best friend and really all the social interaction I've had. If I lose my boyfriend too I'll have a loose group of acquaintances in an alien environment, and he'll be little better. Sounds selfish AND stupid.
posted by luftmensch at 11:25 AM on December 13, 2005

Luftmensch, I think the underlying agreement is that you have to decide what *you* want, and make one of three decisions (which you laid out: Guy #1, Guy #2, or neither) but you can NOT keep choosing "all of the above." By trying not to hurt anyone, you're hurting everyone -- stringing along two guys, and keeping yourself in a bad strung-out emotional situation.

This is going to sound harsh, but I don't mean it to be, and it's something that everyone who's trying to get out of a relationship must face: These guys had perfectly fine lives before you, they are capable of having perfectly fine lives without you. Despite anything either of them says, despite anything you feel, you are *not* the only thing standing between these men and the abyss. Breaking things off with either of them will, of course, hurt in the short-term, but they will get over it in the long-term.

What will hurt them more is dragging out this emotional drama longer than necessary, by putting both guys essentially on-hold in a "maybe." Tell them yes, or tell them no, but don't essentially insult them by telling them they can't possibly survive without you.

Again, I'm not attacking you. I've been in a similar position with an about-to-be ex who needed psych support, and I felt like a complete failure when I realized I finally needed to walk away and let him deal with his own life. Someone on AskMe actually said to me at that time that as much as I wanted to help, I was the *last* person who was in a position to do so right now, and I needed to let him go find his own way out of his problems. It turned out to be very, very true, and truly the kindest thing I could have done for him and the sanest thing I could have done for myself.

That really applies to either of the men in your life right now.
posted by occhiblu at 11:39 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Boyfriend loves me so deeply and always has. One big problem is that for both of them, I met them at rather depressed points in their lives and brought them joy. That alone fosters affection, and makes the cut even deeper. I'm tired of hurting everyone.

The bottom line is that you can't depend solely on another for your happiness; that needs to come from inside, and it's why I said that the new guy needs to see a mental health professional. It seems like you and your boyfriend probably do as well. You simply cannot stay with someone simply because they "can't live without you." One, that's nearly always untrue, and two, it's not fair to either party.

I'm asking for you people to help me find a way that isn't selfish. Thanks for your moral support. If I was really selfish I'd go off myself right now.

Do you want people to be honest or do you want justification for something you've already decided on? You know that being friends with the other man is not good for your boyfriend. You know that being attached while the new guy pines for you is not good for the new guy.

I don't want you to off yourself, and no one here does either, because, yes: that is the most selfish option. At this point I can only say that you need to see a therapist as much as a gunshot victim needs to call an ambulance. Call someone on this list, please.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:44 AM on December 13, 2005

for both of them, I met them at rather depressed points in their lives and brought them joy.

Luftmensch, it sounds like you have an attraction to being with depressed/sad people. That's not bad in and of itself, but you should be careful about how it manifests. If you're most comfortable being around depressed people, are you acting in a way that will extend their depression and dependency?

This is an issue that I have had to deal with in my own life, in part from being raised by a mother with severe bipolar disorder. It has taken me a long time to learn how to channel my empathic abilities constructively, rather than staying in old habits of generating dysfunctional relationship constellations to keep myself in my caretaker role.

It sounds like for you they are out of control and unconscious, and are potentially hurting you and your two partners.
posted by alms at 12:44 PM on December 13, 2005

One big problem is that for both of them, I met them at rather depressed points in their lives and brought them joy. - luftmensch

You can't be their hero. It can be addicting to come in and 'save' lovers in emotional trouble. It's a great feeling to know that you can make someone feel better. But it isn't healthy for you if you're "all they have" and it isn't healthy for them to think they can't survive without you. This is an unhealthy pattern some people get into. For your sake and theirs: stop.
posted by raedyn at 1:38 PM on December 13, 2005

Response by poster: Chyme - sorry about that comment. I was getting emotional and childish there. This afternoon I'm going to give the student health center a call and see what my options here are. I talked to my mom earlier about maybe going to a counselor about it over winter break. And I know that be current situation is not good for anyone, but I'm not trying or at all wanting to keep things like this; that's why I objected to the term selfish. Sorry I overreacted.

alms - I think you're right to some degree. I may be a sucker but my heart goes out to the sad boys, and if I can make them happy it stays there. Boyfriend actually seems pretty stable now in the depression department. Maybe subconsciously I wanted someone who I'd have to try to make happy.

raedyn - any tips on stopping? I'll do my best to be conscious of this in the future to avoid this sort of thing. Anyone have an idea of how to bring myself down from that pedestal?
posted by luftmensch at 1:43 PM on December 13, 2005

Anyone have an idea of how to bring myself down from that pedestal?

Be by yourself for a while. Work on yourself so that you feel whole and happy *by yourself*. Figure out what you want and what makes you happy -- chick flicks, dancing, spending weeks holed up with a novel, going out with friends. Don't date until you're reasonably certain that being alone is not that bad. When you do date, don't start giving up all those things you like to do because they conflict with the guy's schedule or he doesn't want to do them with you or whatever. Stay your own person, and expect him to stay his own person.
Don't center your life around his needs.

This sounds like "compromise is bad!" bad advice, but I think it's something that those of us who are inclined toward savior-hood need to hear. You're obviously very comfortable with being there emotionally for your SO -- you've demonstrated that by making these guys happy -- so you have to really push that other side of yourself to stay balanced.
posted by occhiblu at 2:10 PM on December 13, 2005

I meant to add: If the guy you end up dating doesn't like you staying at least slightly independent, then given your history, that's the sign that you shouldn't be dating him.

And when you find the guy that encourages and supports that, you've got a keeper.
posted by occhiblu at 2:16 PM on December 13, 2005

I agree with occhiblu. Some time as a single person could be helpful.
posted by alms at 7:29 PM on December 13, 2005

luftmensch, some problems don't have solutions. Most problems don't have solutions. There's nothing you can do to "fix" this situation. You have no future with this new guy but you and your boyfriend still have something worth fighting for. The best thing you can do is work very, very hard to salvage your current relationship. Stick with your boyfriend and cut of all contact with the other guy. No, not cut off all contact with him for $X months and then be friends with him. Cut of all contact with him forever. If you have any tokens that remind you of him or pictures or emails or voice mails, delete them. Cut him off completely. Yes, there's a chance he may hurt himself but, really, he's an adult and you can't hold yourself responsible for his every decision. Right now you feel like shit and that's good. You should feel like shit. If you don't want this to happen again you need to begin asking yourself some very tough questions. Figure out why you let yourself get into such a horrible position. Figure out why you let yourself fall in love with a depressed guy who lives 600 miles away when you knew it would never work and cause nothing but immense pain for all involved. Figure out how you could be so selfish/stupid/malicious. Talk to somebody close--not your boyfriend--but another friend. Make sure this never happens again.
posted by nixerman at 10:03 PM on December 13, 2005

« Older Finding a Decathlon Initech Geologic bow   |   Kid's Table Cut-Up Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.