Help me end my long term relationship … or help me fix it?
May 17, 2016 11:19 PM   Subscribe

My LTR has a lot going for it but I don't think the good outweighs the bad and I am trying to end it as painlessly as possible. Not sure how to proceed. (It is a blizzard in there, sorry.)

I have been in a romantic relationship with a friend I met in high school for 11 years now. We are not technically married, but people that we know think of us as being effectively married. We are 27. I am female, my partner is male.

Things which are really good about us:

1. He is a fun person who is easy to get along with as long as everyone is happy and everything is good. We have identical values/politics and some overlapping interests.

2. We are SO comfortable with each other. We have developed a seemingly boundless tolerance for each other's bodily functions and it is fairly glorious.

3. His family. I love his family and they think of me as one of them. I would hate to lose them.

4. Our mutual friends. We regularly get together with a big group of mutual friends. These people have never known us as anything but a couple and honestly, he is the more fun and gregarious of the two of us and I am afraid that I will be left out of these get-togethers if we break up.

5. We love each other. We have different love languages (and he is not interested in knowing more about that) but I know it is true.

The problems with us, as I see them:

1. Sexual incompatibility. He self-identifies as a kinkster. We have tried a few "scenarios" together and I have been to a few munches with him but I find increasingly that I am not interested in that lifestyle. (In fact, I have lingering discomfort/disinterest with/in most sexual contact because of some dubiously consensual things that occurred between us in high school which he does not remember. He is hurt by my fairly regular lack of libido.)

2. Domestic incompatibility. This one has been improving somewhat lately but the fact is that that chores and tidying are basically exclusively my responsibility (either because I have to do them all or because I am spending an excessive of time reminding him about them and getting a lot of grief in return-- it is mostly easier to do everything by myself.) I feel like a housekeeper.

I also feel somewhat isolated in our home together, because he spends most of his free time (all night on most work nights and in excess of 6 hours daily on weekends) playing multiplayer games online with voice chatting. I don't think that that is a wrong way to be, it is just that his games can’t be paused so I have to wait until a game/round is over if I want his attention and I feel lonesome a lot even when he is feet away from me.

3. Emotional incompatibility. He and I are both quite selfish emotionally. When one of us is upset at the other, we tend to respond not with empathy but with defensiveness to the point of anger and that spirals into anger from both sides until we are only angry. It is very difficult to resolve any disputes between us (including discussion of the previous two incompatibilities) for this reason. He is happy to just drop things after they have escalated to that point and forget about them forever, but this pattern of interaction leaves me deeply unsettled. I have tried methods from "Nonviolent Communication" in attempts to fix our patterns but they are very deeply entrenched at this point. It is to the point where I find myself celebrating in my head if we manage to discuss conflicting viewpoints without anger. This was not at all an issue for me in my previous LTR (in high school, even!), so I don't know what it is about us. (Also worth noting: "anger" only ever amounts to raised voices or swearing. Neither of us is violent.)

So, I believe that I want to break up. It's hard for me to say for sure because things are pretty good with us when nothing is "wrong" per se, and there is no single "dealbreaker" to speak of, but I don't think I want to live forever with our incompatibilities as they stand and I don't think we are going to be able to change them. We can't afford therapy and he doesn't think much of therapists anyway.

Some actions that I have taken so far:

1. Six years ago I started a serious breakup conversation. He cried. I think he really loves me a lot even though it doesn't always feel like that. In the past few years I have tentatively and gently suggested amiably breaking up a couple times, citing our incompatibilities (which he is aware of) but they don't seem to bother him like they bother me and he seems more confused than anything when I've brought up breaking up.

2. I suggested, and we decided, to make our relationship "open" so that he can feel free to hook up with people who share his sexual proclivities. He is on board with that. This became official about a year ago but nothing of note has developed. I admit I am hoping he might fall in love with someone else, which, as I see it, is the only way that we can make a clean split without hard feelings.

Sometimes, when things are really good-- like today even-- I feel like a crazy person for trying to break us up. But then I am reminded that this has been on my mind, on and off admittedly, for six years.

I am mostly looking for advice on breaking up: I think I want him to feel like it is his idea, so that I don't hurt him and alienate his family and friends. Can it be done like that? or is that selfish? If you have other things to say, I am open to whatever opinions. I feel too close to this situation to judge whether my reasoning is sane.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think I want him to feel like it is his idea, so that I don't hurt him and alienate his family and friends. Can it be done like that?

Unless he is secretly harbouring the same thoughts, no it can't. It's your idea. If he doesn't want to break up then yes, he is going to be hurt and cry. But if you are honest with him, make a clean break and don't involve other people (particularly other people that you are having sex with) in the break up, there is no reason why things should get ugly.

Also remember that you don't need any reason to end a relationship beyond "I just don't want to be in this relationship any more". You are not obliged to weigh up pros and cons or try to fix things. Do what you want in your heart.
posted by intensitymultiply at 11:28 PM on May 17, 2016 [15 favorites]

As with everything else in your relationship, the break up isn't going to happen unless you do the work. Just be decisive and kind, and don't waver. Have an exit plan. Can you make some money of your own while he is gaming? Use it to get a place of your own, and some therapy if you feel you need it.
posted by Scram at 11:44 PM on May 17, 2016 [11 favorites]

Here is your script.


some dubiously consensual things that occurred between us in high school which he does not remember

He remembers. He either realizes what he did was wrong and is pretending, or he doesn't realize and thus doesn't recall any events that match your experience.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:08 AM on May 18, 2016 [21 favorites]

Wait, he plays MOBAs every single weeknight? All night? And 6+ hours on the weekend? That seems really excessive. I get MOBA's cannot be paused and are highly addictive-- I actually play a MOBA (currently on Battleborn, yay) but the way I got around is that I play with my partner, and even then, we only tend to spend about an hour a night on it, a few matches, and then we go relax and do something else together. If my fiance sat and played LoL every night and didn't make time for me, I'd be really upset with him. Also, real life stuff comes first for us, like chores and dinner and boring stuff. It's not unfair for you to want some of his free time for yourself; after all, you spend your free time cleaning up after him; he spends all his indulging his hobbies. What if you stopped doing that and did something you wanted to do instead?

No wonder he doesn't want to break up; you are way too easy going on him about the chores and his gaming. That plus the sexual incompatibility is worrisome to me and makes me think you're just fundamentally incompatible. People don't need to be 'bad' for them to be a bad match, and sometimes love isn't enough.

You don't need to weigh pros and cons to break up with someone, but to make a point:

1. Lots of people are fun and funny. I'm fun and funny-- so is my fiance. This is not a good reason to stay in an unhappy relationship. There will be other fun and funny people.

2. Being comfortable with something is a natural by product of spending all your time with them and living with them. My family is comfortable with me, and my ex was comfortable with me and my bodily functions. There are a great many people that are like that, and it's not that hard to find.

3. Yes, losing a great extended family is a bit of a downer. But he is not his family, and is it really worth it to be with someone just because you'd have great in-laws? Ultimately if they're good people they shouldn't blame you for wanting to be happy in a match that is better suited to you, and will hopefully still be friendly to you when things settle down.

4. Again, it'd suck to lose a bunch of friends, but he is not his friends, and presumably, there are more friends to be had when you meet someone else.

5. You can love each other and even think highly of each other and still be unhappy and not suited. I loved my ex very much, and he wasn't even an obvious bad match, but we were ill-suited. Some of our issues were bad communication; we also would get defensive when someone would express unhappiness, and he especially always made excuses, as if he was made to do it. It drove me up the wall. Yes, part of that kind of issue needs personal work, therapy, etc, but part of it is incompatibility-- while I have emotionally matured since then, I'm not that different a person, but my current fiance doesn't push my buttons in the same way my ex did, and as a result I don't actually have those knee jerk defensive reactions as much. So yes, work on your emotionally selfish nature, but keep in mind, with a good partner, it should feel easy to talk to each other, even if you're not perfect.

The fact your partner doesn't want to know about your love language is a bit of a red flag to me, too, it's like he doesn't want to try to understand you or do things to make you happier, but you have obviously at least tried to do the same for him-- such as the kink scene, which you don't enjoy. But you tried, and I don't see that amount of effort from him, for all your love for each other.

If this is your first relationship since HS, I understand it's scary to let go, especially since there's no glaringly bad parts to your relationship-- I'm sure he's loving and kind to you and whatnot. But you don't need a 'good' reason-- your underlying unhappiness is a good reason-- that IS the 'dealbreaker'. I mean, If you're secretly hoping he's going to fall in love with his next poly partner and leave you, then the dishes are done, and it's time. Being afraid to be the bad guy is its own kind of villainy, you know? Don't waste any more years on a relationship that you need to justify to yourself to remain in.

Best of luck.
posted by Dimes at 12:26 AM on May 18, 2016 [36 favorites]

I'm really sorry, but there's no way you will be able to do this without hurting his feelings and making him upset. There are times in our lives when we lose things and suffer, and it is horrible to bring that on someone, but you need to do it and he will survive and recover without you. You are allowed to prioritise yourself and choose your own happiness, even though he won't understand and will be hurt. It will be very hard for you, too, but if you are strong and remind yourself that this is the right choice you'll get through it.

Concrete advice: bite the bullet. Tell him you are splitting up with him. He'll probably want to get into deep negotiations, but you don't need to do that. Just say that the relationship is no longer what you want. That is enough reason, ok! He won't think it is, but it is, and you must find faith in that within you. Then work on disentangling your lives as cleanly and quickly as possible. Move out and go no-contact. It will hurt like hell for you to lose the things you do value about him, and to lose his family, and you will mourn, but the more time goes on the better you'll feel, I promise.
posted by mymbleth at 12:41 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also I just want to say that there are many many things about your relationship which ARE "wrong" and which you're allowed to throw in the towel over. You're lonely, you're a drudge, you sex life is not what you want (and he assaulted you at one point in your relationship???), and he cares more about his games than he does about being with you. You've tried all you can. He's not going to try half as hard as you have done. This is not fixable. Just go. There are people out there who can give you the plus sides of this relationship and much much more. You deserve more! Go and find it, don't waste more time with this guy who doesn't, hasn't, and will not ever do what he needs to do to be a good partner for you!
posted by mymbleth at 12:57 AM on May 18, 2016 [21 favorites]

You write that you don't think you have enough reason to break up.

The things you list as good are so lackluster and the things you list as bad are really upsetting. You've spent 11 years with him making excuses for why things are okay, playing up the (not so special) good and playing down the (rather abnormal) bad, so it's hard for you to see this, but you absolutely have sufficient reason to break up with him, sooner rather than later.
posted by Cozybee at 1:05 AM on May 18, 2016 [18 favorites]

I think it's important to remember that a break-up is a unilateral decision. You don't need his permission to break up, you don't need his approval or his understanding. The only thing you need to break up with him is your desire to break up with him. So do it as gently as possible and then stick to your guns.

I know it must be scary to think about being alone or starting over after being in such a long relationship, but you're still pretty young at 27. There is so much life waiting for you out there! Imagine what it's like to date someone and actually want to have sex with him! Imagine being with someone who cares when you're upset and wants to help you find a solution, rather than wanting to just shut you up. Imagine living on your own and only having to clean up after yourself (if you leave the house in the morning and it's clean, it will be clean when you come back!). It's also a lot different to feel lonesome when you're living by yourself than it is to feel lonesome because the person you live with is ignoring you. When you're by yourself and feeling lonely, you can decide to do something about it: call a friend, go to a meet up, go out to a movie or for a walk. Or, in other words, you can do something about it, instead of just hoping that your partner will chose to pay attention to you.
posted by colfax at 1:14 AM on May 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

He's content and comfortable. This is why things are stagnating and not changing. He's also not really listening to your concerns. When you've brought up your incompatibilities and breaking up, that was his cue to step up, listen to you, and work on things because he cares about you and the relationship. But that isn't what he did. He cried so you had to focus on his feelings instead of yours and he brushed off your concerns. He does not, from what you have written, seem that concerned about your feelings or the relationship as it affects you. It doesn't matter whether he doesn't share those concerns, because YOU have those concerns about the relationship and that means they are his concerns too. He seems to want to be in a relationship with you as it is in a very, very selfish way.

That is reason enough to leave and sounds invalidating and frustrating and miserable. But the things about sex and free time and housework just pile onto it all. This does not sound like a fulfilling relationship. He should care about you in a way where he is concerned about your feelings and wants to make you happy and make you feel good. Instead it sounds like he cares about you in a selfish, possessive way. He wants you because you make his life better. He doesn't want you because he wants to make your life better.

Breakups do not need to be mutual. You've been putting his needs before yours throughout the relationship, it sounds like. You do not need to convince him a breakup is a good idea. It will hurt him and that will be hard but there are two of you here and your feelings matter just as much as his and you have probably been hurt for awhile now by staying in the relationship. You need to just be honest with him and yourself. It's the only way you're going to be happy from here on out, and possibly you two would have broken up a lot sooner than now.
posted by Polychrome at 2:22 AM on May 18, 2016 [17 favorites]

I'm sorry, but you are in a relationship with a man-child who has sexually assaulted you, emotionally drains you, manipulates you into thinking that your persistent unhappiness is confusing, and provides absolutely no signs of pro-actively working on any of the very, very important things that are mindfuckingly wrong with your relationship. He is the obvious beneficiary in this relationship in so many ways that I genuinely fear for you in the long run.

You will find that there are many, many, many amazing people you are missing out on who will make you see that what you want is BASELINE respect and regard.

I'm very excited for you to see what is out there--in terms of new friendships, new families, new ways of being loved and seen. You are underestimating how wonderful the world is.

I feel panicked reading your list of pros and cons. At the risk of sounding alarmist, please get out now while it is not too late. He will cry. You might even cry. But you will feel light as a feather as soon as you understand that you are responsible to yourself before you are responsible to anyone else. It may help to know that leaving the relationship will actually benefit you both.
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 3:10 AM on May 18, 2016 [31 favorites]

Have you read the emotional labor thread yet? Because your post just reeks of the cries of all the women who were in relationships like yours, where you're doing so much work for such a pittance of attention. Or maybe read the breaking up archives of Captain Awkward. Sometimes it's easier to come to terms with our own situations when we see the same patterns happening in other people.

You need to own up to how you really feel about this relationship and break up with this guy and not spend so much effort cushioning the blow. Not because you're a horrible person who has to do it as penance for your selfishness, but because you deserve better and it will be easier for you to find that better the sooner you break up. You don't have to be cruel about it. He's going to cry, yes, and it's going to be difficult for you because you don't want to hurt him, but if he was so interested in keeping this relationship he could have invested, I dunno, maybe half of the time and energy that he does in video games. If his feelings of love aren't translating into real actions of love, if this guy doesn't spend much quality time with you and doesn't do the work to figure out how to make you feel loved, then it's highly likely his feelings are more about his comfortable situation than anything specific about you. That's especially apparent when you start asking for things you want/need and it turns into an angry escalation...until you let it go whereupon which he's content to let the status quo go on indefinitely, as long as it means he doesn't have to change or make an effort.

The other reason you need to break up with this guy is you have a lot of work to do (that isn't doing this guy's chores for him like you were his mom). You need to strike out and work on your own social foundations. The good news is, even if you don't break up with this guy because you can't bring yourself to do it yet, you can start on this work! While he's busy playing video games, start trying to find people/activities outside of the home to do, and go without him. That will help you build up your own social foundations and as a bonus you won't feel so lonely sitting there while he's focused on a screen.

Heck, if you've managed to finagle an open relationship, you might as well go on dates too. Warning: if you do that you run a good chance of finding somebody you'd like to be with better and it'll make your break up a gazillion times more dramatic, but I guess then you'll at least have a motivating factor to use to goad yourself over that finish line. Basically, maybe you should do what you've been trying to get him to do, except he's less likely to accomplish it because dating is time consuming work and he is spending a part time job's worth of his time on video games while you do the chores, why the hell would he want to change this uuuuugh just break up with him.
posted by foxfirefey at 3:15 AM on May 18, 2016 [14 favorites]

Your "good" list is pretty shitty. The only item that says anything about his personality or how you interact is (1), and (1) just says that you guys get along okay as long as everyone is happy to begin with. You can have that level of compatibility with half the population.

Your incompatibilities are significant, and I don't think you can fix this broken relationship. It's time to bite the bullet and break up.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:38 AM on May 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

No extended family is wonderful enough to make up for a bad nuclear family. Do you want kids? Picture yourself parenting with him. Picture him as a defenseless baby's dad. How does that make you feel?

Again, you never need a reason to end a relationship. Wanting to go is enough, especially when you aren't married and there are no kids involved. But you do have reasons! Good ones! You are important. Your happiness is important. Find someone who realizes this.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:02 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I see you investing so much more in this relationship than he is. It's no wonder he gets sad and confused when you are talking about breaking up: he has it so good after all! He doesn't need to spend any of his free time or energy on you; you, on the other hand, spend a lot of yours on picking up after him, in many ways.
It's clear that he is getting a lot out of the relationship. If you leave it up to him, you'll be together forever and you will be picking his socks up off the floor for the rest of your life, while he plays online games and continues to not care about your needs.

So what's in it for you? Not a whole lot, frankly. Many, many people are fun; almost everyone is easy to get along with as long as everything is going their way. Being comfortable is lovely, but it's not rare: being together with someone will make that happen, pretty much every time. Many people have nice families and great friends. None of this is special; also, not much of this is about him at all.
He doesn't even want to learn how to show you his love in a way that works for you. Why is that too much to ask? It shouldn't be.

He does not seem to want to invest in this relationship, nor does he need to. If he fears you'll stop providing all the good things that you bring, he'll cry and you'll come around. He doesn't even need to bother with making any changes! Isn't that convenient?
He also doesn't seem interested in making you feel better about the bad sexual stuff that happened in the past. So much easier to just not remember it, right? Yes, I'm sarcastic, because I'm getting mad on your behalf. Of course you are going to be less interested in having sex with someone you don't feel fully safe with. That's the only sane response.

You can't make him think that this is his idea. It's not. It's yours and that is fine. You do not need a dealbreaker. You are not getting what you want out of this relationship, and that hasn't changed even though you've told him as much. No other reason is needed (but you have oh! so many).
You are not being selfish, you are simply doing what you need to do to thrive and survive. Please allow yourself to break up with him. You have the internet's permission.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:18 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

To your question about how to make it his idea, say:

I want a relationship where the domestic chores are split evenly
I want a relationship where my partner takes care of me by meeting my emotional needs, that he discovers and explores by talking to me about them
I want to enjoy evenings and weekends with my partner fully present and available to me
I want to have a sexual relationship with my partner, and myself, that is not tainted with trauma from his past physical abuse of me, and silencing of this.
I want a sexual relationship that is romantic, and one uncomplicated by a kink in which I share zero interest
I want a relationship without anger
I want to have my friends support and love me as an individual, not a compartment of my partnership
I want encouragement and joy and excitement about the future

I want to know if you think these wants are reasonable? Do you think we are capable of having such a relationship?

He can't do it, hasn't done it, can't respect your requests for respecting the domestic space you share, doesn't fly your kite sexually, is boring and immature, so the answer is No. Done. Ergo: He's responsible for the break up.

[I broke with a LTR at 27, and it was fine. You're young and you're probably going to be absolutely blooming free of this shit.]
posted by honey-barbara at 4:37 AM on May 18, 2016 [46 favorites]

It was only when I was nearly 30 - literally just on the very last edge of 29 - when I realized that it is not selfish to take care of myself.

It is not selfish for you to take care of yourself, either.

It is not selfish to want an equal partnership. It is not selfish to want a significant other who does their fair share of household labor. It's not selfish to want to be with someone who knows what a love language is, or who is willing to learn about it because it matters to you.

Leaving him will be hard. You will have doubts. You will feel rotten doing it and rotten in the aftermath. But then? You will feel free, and the world will open up to you.

Take care. It's not selfish. Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 4:41 AM on May 18, 2016 [9 favorites]

This is hard, and its going to get harder. But you already know the answer. You do, you're only asking Metafilter for a magic wand for something you know is already irretrievably unredeemable. I know, because i posted questions with insight (and some without) before i ended my 20 year marriage 5 years ago.
If you are brave and do the hard thing, and the really hard thing is to leave someone you love who you can't have an equitable intimate life with, afterwards life will be scary and wonderful and sad and all sorts of things, but most of all, it will be authentic. So authentic that years on when you are bemoaning your singledom, you will forget the tiny box your relationship squished you into.

You set up a polyamorous situation so that your partner woukd leave you without causing him pain. Sweet of you, and it sucks that things didn't fall into place, but the older you get the more you regret wasted time - (i made a deal with myself YEARS ago to regret nothing I couldn't change or fix because there was nothing i could do about it, and to my surprise it stuck - except for when i didn't move on when i should have).

You have one life, and you've been sweet to your partner. Think this through, arrange alternate accomodation, and then let him know it's over - no negotiation, no changing or improving or recalculating relationship norms. You love him, but you feel he is not right for you (don't say not right for each other because that gives him the opportunity to say his desires can be squashed), you need no contact for at least 6 months, and then you, you go live a completely new life as a single person. It will be hard, lonely and exciting. Go.
posted by b33j at 4:45 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I know a fair number of hetero relationships have a similar emotional labour/household labour mismatch to yours, but this sort of dynamic wears away at whatever goodwill there is in the relationship. It doesn't have to be this way, though; you can have a relationship that functions differently to this one, just not with this guy.
posted by blerghamot at 5:03 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am mostly looking for advice on breaking up: I think I want him to feel like it is his idea, so that I don't hurt him and alienate his family and friends. Can it be done like that? or is that selfish?

You're getting a lot of advice pointing out what's wrong in your relationship but I think you know already and you're ready to breakup, right?

What's going on is that struggle where you don't want to purposely hurt him yet you're ready to end the relationship. So you're trying to give him ammunition that he can use to blow you two up so you don't feel guilty.

Listen, you're going to feel guilty for a while and then you'll realize you have no reason to beat yourself up. It's perfectly okay to decide a relationship isn't working, but I get it: right now you want to finagle the situation so he does the breaking up.

The bad news is that's not going to happen and you're going to have to do this. So make your plans about where you're going to go after you break up with him and get all your ducks in a row, sit him down and use Miko's script, and then you leave. You need an exit strategy.

That's it. There's no other way to do this. And if you find yourself wavering, "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" will help you in this decision.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:14 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

There's no way to subtly nudge him into leaving you. The guy can barely get off the computer to talk to you; he's not going to leave the relationship. Say, if you decided to passive-aggressively stop all domestic upkeep, he probably wouldn't complain about it until the dishes started growing things and dust buffalo roamed the bedroom, by which time you'll be way miserable.

There's no way to break up without it hurting, and the pain of breaking up is no reason to stay. He'll be fine. You'll be fine. It won't feel like it at first, but you will.

Start quietly planning your post-breakup logistics - find an apartment, organize your belongings, etc. - so you can make the break as swift and clean as possible. Minimize the window of time between "we need to talk" and being totally, completely out of his space. Start planning today.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:44 AM on May 18, 2016 [18 favorites]

Why would he break up with you? You're a live-in maid, and he gets to sleep with whomever he wants.

This relationship is set up to make him happy. It's set up so he gets to live an easy life... at your expense. You get nothing, he gets whatever he wants. He isn't concerned with how unfair this set up is to you or how unhappy you are, and he's not going to break up for you for your benefit. You're going to have to do this. You're the only one in this relationship who cares about your well being, so I'm afraid you're going to have to do the hard thing and break up with him.

Leave him, and find someone who takes care of you as much as you take care of them. You deserve nothing less.
posted by meese at 6:50 AM on May 18, 2016 [17 favorites]

What would happen if you stopped trying so hard to be the cool girl?

What would happen if you allowed yourself to feel angry about the things in this relationship that deeply hurt you?

What would happen if you stopped compromising everything for someone who gives you nothing?

What would happen if you refused to cost along anymore as this man's live-in maid and emotional crutch?

I understand those are scary questions - it's terrifying to blow up your life and demand things for yourself. But you're currently living in a tiny box and I would love to see you break free to live as your true self.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:51 AM on May 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

Poop Milkshake. All of your positives aren't good enough to negate even one of your negatives.

It sounds like you're afraid of being perceived or labelled as the bad guy by him and his family. That's a really compelling fear. It's haunting, and when it happens it can be awful - especially if you're the kind of good person who won't tell outsiders what really went down because you don't want to be the person who badmouths their ex. The thing I can tell you is: so what? Everyone is a bad person sometimes, sometimes for good reasons -- and almost everyone is wrongly called a bad person by someone bitter. You'll get past it. I suggest watching The Last Seduction. It's an awesome movie, and a great illustration of an actual Bad Person (who you still sort of root for)(!).

I'd suggest couple's counseling, because there's a tiny chance it may help you make things better if you have a way of talking about your issues with him in a way where he has to confront them. And because there's an even better chance - either because he goes and refuses to engage or change, or because he refuses to go - that you can then use "We tried marital counseling and just couldn't work things out" (or "I asked him to come to counseling and he wasn't interested") as your stock response to anyone judgy who asks you why you broke up. Instant not-the-bad-guy card.

Good luck. You'll be better on the other side.
posted by Mchelly at 6:59 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

You don't need a reason to break up. You don't.

You have to dump this guy, you've needed to for a long time. You are throwing away years on this guy, You'll be amazed by real relationships once you're free.

so.. I don't hurt him and alienate his family and friends

That's not in your control, he could fall in love with another woman, give you an STD and break up with you Christmas morning and he could still be super hurt. Hurt is his feeling to feel. Family and friends may divide loyalties all manner of ways, which again you can't control.
posted by French Fry at 7:21 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I imagine that feeling comfortable in front of each other is something you would cling to more strongly if you have social anxiety and don't often feel comfortable with new people. Practice may help.

If the track record of your arguments and fights is that you never win and also problems are never solved, then I can understand why wanting to break up seems like a situation that you can't win and that you might not even be able to solve.
posted by puddledork at 7:28 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think you're ready, and I think you're strong enough to initiate this. The Miko script that FFFM referenced is excellent. Basically, this isn't a negotiation. It's a declaration. Basically, "I'm doing this."

Don't talk about the ways in which you're unhappy, and it's okay if he's upset. But it's done.

I'd work now on your exit strategy. If you share a home, that's going to need to end. Think out the logistics of it. When does the lease end? (Soon I hope.) Can you go live at home until it does so he can stay in the place, or until he gets a roommate? Can you afford to break the lease? Just think about that.

For sure at the time you break up with him, have a bag ready to go and a place to go to. A friend's, your family, whatever. This lets him go through mourning without you all up his butt.

And you'll need to mourn this too. I recommend some good distractions. Getting an advanced degree or certification, learning a language, etc. Join clubs, call your mutual friends and let them know what's going on and be sure to make the effort to stay in touch. Make new friends that don't know your Ex, it's good for you! Join a gym, take classes, stuff like that.

You only get this one life and it's for YOU, so make the very best of it.

Good luck to you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:33 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh hi there, me-from-two-years ago!

DTMFA. I'm serious. If I have a regret in life, it's that I wasted at least three years too many trying to drag my MMO-binging, antisocial, stagnant-in-every-possible-way boyfriend from high school kicking and screaming into an equal adult partnership that he clearly had no interest or business in being in. He wasn't ready for it; he just didn't know it yet. And neither did I.

It's hard to sever ties when you have that much history with a person. It can even start to feel like a sunk costs thing or like too much of a hassle ("What will I tell my friends? What will I tell my grandma??"), but I promise, after the initial pain, you are going to feel lighter than you have in years. Being single is head and shoulders better than being in a relationship that has outlived itself, even when nothing is expressly "wrong". (I put "wrong" in scare quotes, because OMG your cons list is basically "fundamentally incompatible in every important way" and if that's not wrong, I don't know what is.)

Nthing the suggestion for Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay because it's a solid read, but honestly, you deserve to be happy, and it doesn't sound like you are. What's more, it doesn't sound like he's ever going to be capable of making you happy, because at the end of the day, even if he pulled a complete 180, addressed every problem on this list and became the perfect equal partner, he still transgressed your sexual boundaries. That ALONE is a good enough reason to pull the plug on this. Good luck.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:53 AM on May 18, 2016 [12 favorites]

Your goal is admirable, but there isn't any way to break up with someone and 100% ensure they won't be hurt. People are going to feel what they feel and from the sound of it, he's going to feel upset that he's lost his maid and that he might actually have to mature from his high-school mindset. He's playing 20+ hours of video games a week. I'm not going to say that's too much in general, but it's too much in this case since he isn't doing his share around the house and isn't being a present partner at all.

The Miko script it he way to go. Be kind, don't throw blame around and make a clean break. Be ready to move out. Don't badmouth him to your mutual friends. Don't stop because he starts crying. You've been getting ready to end the relationship for 6 years.

As for your connection with his family, that's tough but no occasional time with the in-laws is enough to put up with being unhappy most of the time at home with your partner.
posted by GilvearSt at 8:02 AM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

There is no way to make someone else break up with you that isn't more cruel than doing it yourself. you are both stuck in the roles you both had in the relationship when you were teens, you're ready to grow up, he's not, why should he you're a surrogate mother To be honest you leaving him is probably the best thing that could happen to him. He will get to grow up & become an independent person & will learn a few lessons about taking people for granted along the way.

Yes it will hurt him, but like ripping a bandaid off it is something better done quickly & with kindness than slowly tearing it off & making it hurt much worse for much longer. Prepare your escape plan & leave, use Mikos script as others have linked to, it's kind of the gold standard for break up talks and leave. You can clearly tell friends & family why you left, but they will hear what they want to hear & there isn't much you can do about their reactions except tell them the truth. That there is no one else but you've just grown apart & it's time to move on.
posted by wwax at 8:51 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You know you want to break up. Be brave. Be ready for him to cry. Be ready for him to argue with you.

If you feel yourself wavering, maybe remember how easy it is for him to "drop things and forget" and let him go ahead and do that.
posted by ewok_academy at 9:16 AM on May 18, 2016

He's been training you, probably unconsciously but who cares, that your opinions and needs don't matter since you were a literal child. It's no wonder you want this to be his idea. You're used to things either being his idea and happening, or being your idea and getting ignored.

It's going to be hard to make and stick to your first decision that he doesn't get to influence, veto, or downplay. He's going to resist you, and you're going to be swayed by his resistance and resist yourself because that's what you're used to. But the reason you're struggling now is the same reason you need to get out. This is some "first day of the rest of your life" shit.
posted by babelfish at 9:32 AM on May 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

In my fantasy, you have a Brilliant Exit Plan! Complete with new apartment waiting for you. You walk out that night/afternoon/whenever, and go straight there. Ta-dah! Advantage of Brilliant Exit Plan: You have no reason to go back. No whimpering physical or social discomfort from crashing at someone else's place nowhere near your work: no money worries, because you've been banking your escape fund. Hell, you couldn't go back: you have a new lease, security deposit, etc. Disadvantage of Brilliant Exit Plan: Potential excuse for procrastination. You've been procrastinating for 6 years ...

So give yourself a deadline. Maybe a week. Minimally, you need your own bank account, packed luggage, and a place to sleep.

If in one week you have almost, but not quite, reached a Brilliant Exit, you might rethink. For example: you have rented a storage locker, and found affordable movers to come take all your stuff away while he is at work, but the movers can't come until two days after your deadline. BUT if you start waffling, then pull the trigger NOW or ASAP. Consider creating a Dead Man's Switch:

You might set up an email that will automatically arrive in two weeks. A tough-minded friend has the password, but you don't. Of course, breaking up with someone by email is cold and harsh. You'll just have to do it yourself, in person, before it lands in his inbox.

Or, if you're a Doctor Strangelove fan, you may prefer to bury bombs jacketed with "Cobalt-Thorium G" connected to a computer network set to detonate them automatically if at the end of two weeks you still aren't single. Cobalt-Thorium G would encircle the earth in a radioactive cloud, wiping out all human and animal life, rendering the surface of the earth uninhabitable. The device cannot be dismantled or "untriggered", as it is programmed to explode if any such attempt is made.

That may sound extreme. But it's been six years. SIX YEARS!
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:04 PM on May 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Last year I broke up with someone I'd been with for nearly a decade. As you allude to, it felt (feels!) very much like a divorce.

There's no way to make it bloodless after this long. There's no way to do it so he doesn't hate you, or his family doesn't hate you. You can't approach it with the mindset of minimizing his hurt at all costs. You should reframe this as something that needs to happen, but something that only you are capable of doing. It will be hard, but you have to do it. You are the only one who's strong enough.

Mutual friends can be very thorny. Depending on your friends, you may very well be able to "share custody" with minimal heartache, so to speak, but as the breaker-upper you may also find yourself gravitating towards people who primarily sympathize with your decision. In my own similar situation, where my ex and I were very much seen as a social unit, some mutual friends seemed to understand why I did it much more than others did, even if everyone was very polite/civil to both of us. In the intervening time I've grown much closer to the former group and have had distance set in with the latter. Hope for the best, but try to steel yourself for changes as best you can. Remember you're doing this because you don't want everything to look exactly the same in another six years, mutual friends and routines and domestic drudgery and all.

I know you're anonymous here, but please feel free to memail me. I am happy to talk to you.
posted by superfluousm at 2:21 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Six years of processing the possibility of breaking up with him is more than enough. You know you want to break up with him and you know that you need to be the one to do it. You need get this over with as soon as possible. Tonight would be an ideal time to do it. March into his video game den and say "I am done with this relationship, it is no longer working for me." If he tries to talk you out of it, focus on the practicalities of the split: moving into new apartments, splitting up your shared belongings, who gets pets, closing out mutual financial responsibilities, and so on. You don't need to talk to him at all about your or his feelings, or make any attempt to resolve your (massive) incompatibilities, since you're now completely done with this relationship and such a conversation would be totally pointless. If he tries to engage you in this way, walk away and email him anything vital you need to communicate with him.

You're so young, you have your whole life ahead you. You do not need to waste even one more second worrying about this guy's feelings.
posted by scantee at 2:58 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

There is no good way for this relationship to go besides ending it, promptly.

I've written about my gaming-addicted ex on here before. The neglect I felt constantly being put second to a fucking videogame and brand-new friends sucked my soul dry. (And I'm a lifelong video gamer too!)

Of course he's going to be upset when you end it. Right now he has everything, as stated above. He's got sex with whoever he wants, a roommate, a cleaner, etc without having to do literally anything in return.

My ex's video game addiction was just one of the more obvious signs of his awful personality and inability to be in a relationship. There's nothing good here. Break up. Move out.

And don't worry, my ex sobbed and begged and told me "it would be better if you hated me" and god I TRIED everything I could in that relationship. Everything. Well, he dated someone FOUR days later, so it seemed he was just fine anyway. I'm now happily married to a wonderful man who doesn't put anything else before me.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:49 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

This video that was shared on the blue yesterday might be helpful to you - It's from a commencement speech about how the speaker (Lin-Manuel Miranda) learned that sometimes in life, we just can't avoid the painful things, through breaking up with his high school girlfriend. (the whole speech is great, but I've set up the link so it will start at the beginning of the relevant part).

The truth is, you might lose some or all of those friends you guys share. I've seen that happen, especially when one person (especially the guy) is especially charismatic. But really, only in social groups that still operate like it is high school. And once you guys break up and you start living life on your own, for the first time as an adult, you will probably grow and change in ways that such a social group won't be your scene anymore anyway. The more likely scenario is that you will keep the friends who would be better friends in the long run anyway.

Also, I am really skeptical that you are as selfish as he is. After all, you're taking care of both of you, something he's not doing. I do think his selfishness might make you reciprocate as a self-protective (or just pissed off!) measure. But I bet once you are in a relationship with someone who actually gives a shit about your feelings, that will resolve itself.
posted by lunasol at 5:52 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Leave and don't look back. It's not going to work.

Also: leave quickly. I mean pick the time it is right, but then just move. Go. Break it and move. There's not actually anything to be gained by drawing it out once you decide. Speaking from experience: on the other side -- even if you care about the person and think the best of them -- you'll wonder why you bothered tormenting yourself and them with something you knew to be inevitable. Move fast and save health, emotional energy and optimism for subsequent relationships.

You're really young. Don't wait ten more years.
posted by ead at 8:40 PM on May 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

You don't want to hurt him but you're prepared to hurt yourself?

There'll be no award handed to you at the end of your life for staying but if you move on you might be able to find someone who helps you grow and experience more in life right now.
posted by heyjude at 2:20 AM on May 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Just here to reassure you that if you do this respectfully and kindly, there is nothing to stop you from keeping both him and many of your mutual friends/family in your life, except him and them not partaking in that process and, I guess, time.

I did this - broke up with an ex of many years, neither of us "wronged" each other, it had just run its course. It took two years, but we're friends now, not besties, but we're going to each others' weddings this year. I only "lost" a few of our mutual friends, and they weren't amazingly solid friends anyway. The good'uns stick.
posted by greenish at 5:53 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I need to do this too, so thank you to everyone for the helpful comments. OP, your story feels so much like mine, right down to the non-consensual stuff. I was also planning on trying to make it seem like his idea, as he has said in the past he would kill himself if we split up. But I'm going to read Miko's script and prepare myself to end the only relationship I've ever had. I really think thats the only way, that we need to be strong and brave and do this thing for ourselves. Think of it as the first step in taking care of yourself first for a change. Best of luck, OP.
posted by tinwhiskers at 2:01 PM on May 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

Tinwhiskers, threatening to kill yourself if your partner leaves is textbook emotional abuse. Please stay safe and protect yourself when leaving!
posted by Cozybee at 12:25 AM on May 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

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