The horse of contempt vs the pony of stability
September 7, 2016 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm living with my partner, and the relationship is probably emotionally over...but I can't move out due to Reasons. I'll try to keep it short as possible below (oops, I didn't, it's wayyy too long), but I'm looking for both practical and emotional solutions or advice. It's a should I stay or should I go question, but of course there's always particulars.

TL;DR version: I'm unhappy in my relationship, which is otherwise stable and loving and it'll ruin me financially if I move out. Do I disentangle, and if so, how?

I've been with my partner (let's call him AJ) for nearly 3 years, and we've lived together for close to 2.5 years. When the relationship started, we were both still managing big feelings from very recently ended abusive relationships, so the loving, caring emotions of attraction really got us both very hard at the beginning.

We've been acquaintances for 11 years, but never spent large amounts of time together one on one until we started seeing each other. AJ is someone who is very serious about having a support network to reach out to in times of crisis, and I have been on the periphery of that network the entire time we've known each other. We hadn't actually spoken in person for maybe 3-4 years when we went to get dinner 3 years ago, and we ended up spending enormous amounts of time talking about how well matched we were, how friends make good partners, and how to navigate this emotional shift. Neither of us were realistically in a good place to start a serious relationship, and we are grown enough to know better (he's currently 28, I'm 33) but we're also both romantics at heart, and the whole meet-cute hit us both where we were vulnerable.

There are multiple possible incompatibilities that I ignored, since they were in such direct contradiction to my previous relationship. Here's a long list! Ex didn't ever want to live together or get married; AJ is utterly dedicated to living with a partner and marriage is one his primary life goals. Ex spent large amounts of time hiding his free time activities and gaslighting me into accepting he was just "not interested in schedules" while he was cheating on me with multiple different people; AJ is extremely schedule driven and is utterly horrified at the idea of cheating. Ex emotionally abandoned me; AJ wants to talk about feelings all the time. Ex mocked me for being financially insecure, AJ made clear his intentions to financially support his partner. Ex went out all the time, AJ spends time working on his computer at home. I knew at the time that I was being slightly irrational, but also had a difficulty that I'm still dealing with now: many of the traits about AJ's lifestyle that drew me to form a closer relationship with him are Good Things that lead to Stable Relationships, but are also the things making me feel like I'm chewing on my hands... so the first piece of my concern is that I'm blinding myself with cultural expectations.

AJ is extremely loving and caring, driven and intelligent and overall a pretty wonderful partner. He spends time trying to analyze what being a "good partner" means and takes a lot of pride in talking with and supporting his loved ones. This context flipped pretty significantly when he started his graduate program within 3-4 months of us moving in together but I anticipated that! Grad school is hard and sucks up your life! Over the past 18 months, however, I've been emotionally checking out of the relationship. I've been resentful of the distribution of household labor, was sexually rebuffed enough times that I largely lost interest (which has been a huge problem now that I'm the rebuffer) and have felt more like a support network/maid than an adult in a relationship that supposedly is leading to mutual goals and needs. My interests are considered less healthy, functional or mutually possible (AJ has a chronic digestive disorder that can randomly cause massive amounts of pain combined with untreated anxiety; this prevents participation in virtually all unstructured activities outside the home). As a person who is very dedicated to partnership-as-companionship, my need for social/cultural stimulation balanced by a strong "home base" where I can recharge means that only half of my life-needs can be met in either direction--either I do not have the companionship of my partner, or I spend all of my time cooking, cleaning and watching him play video games while cuddling on the couch. I'm not resentful any longer, since I had to stop caring or go bonkers, but I also feel disinterest and lingering contempt toward both the relationship itself and AJ as a person. Now that he's no longer in school, he's working very hard to put everything back together, but I'm honestly disinterested in doing the work with him. If two major factors weren't true, I would have left by now for both of us.

First, we moved in as early in the relationship as we did because I simply could not continue affording rent where I was living at the time. I make about $31k/year as an adjunct instructor and he makes about 4 times that (and always increasing) as a high-demand tech worker at the beginning of his career. The plan all along was that he wants to spend his money on making both him and his partner happy--we live in a fancy townhouse in a "nice" (rapidly gentrifying) neighborhood in Seattle close to everything that a childfree couple could want or need. I'm paying him the maximum amount of rent I could reasonably afford ($1000/month when I'm making paychecks, $0/month while I'm not over summer break) while still making bills and having something like a life: I have no savings. I can't move right now, I don't have the income. I shouldn't WANT to move! My day-to-day is extremely comfortable, except that I feel financially and emotionally trapped. If I leave, it will take me a minimum of 6-8 months to save enough money to not end up destitute. Since we've started talking about my experience of emotional distance and feelings of being trapped, he has mentioned multiple times that me leaving after he has covered rent for 2 months would be a clear sign that I was taking advantage of him. I don't want to take advantage of anyone for financial reasons, ever, but I also don't want to end up sleeping on a friend's couch with two cats in tow because I have Feelings about my Freedoms that are possibly unrealistic or immature. If I can get over my feelings of disconnection, I have the goddamn American Dream of financial and emotional security waiting for me at home, with the explicit understanding that my expected household contributions will drop to nothing once AJ feels financially secure enough in his own career. On the other hand, living that life will require accepting that the things I consider important elements of my personality are immature and need external management (AJ has mentioned that I "never have to grow up" due to my career as well as my outlook on life), which feels incredibly hypocritical for a professional educator who teaches Feminist Philosophy.

Second, I care very deeply about AJ's emotional health on an abstract level, and don't want to send him into a tailspin of self loathing and anxiety. I don't love him any longer, but I do care and he has been working very hard over the past few weeks to provide me with love and comfort, which is alternately triggering feelings of irritation and deep security and comfort. This is pulling me in two directions throughout! I should leave in order to preserve his emotional needs as well as mine (and it is seriously horrible being in a relationship where your partner does not love you equally!), but conversely I should probably stop being immature and selfish about my perception of my identity. I feel both emotionally manipulated and, immediately afterward, manipulative. My inclination to suborn my emotional needs to others is something I've worked on in therapy on and off for a couple of years, but I still have serious trouble picking apart when my needs are reactive/destructive as opposed to realistic and loving. I don't want to ruin two people's lives just because I'm having a mid-30s crisis. I also don't want to replicate my parent's relationship, where my mother swallowed her frustration and sense of self in order to stay with an emotionally insecure and unhealthy partner in the hopes that their lives would "work out"...now (30 years on) they are companionable enough but very emotionally distant due to my mother's perception of her sacrifice of her life to someone who took 20 years to start to recover from alcoholism. However, beside that paradigm, I also feel horribly ableist and self centered that I'm not interested in being a supportive and loving partner to someone with chronic pain and anxiety, and that those elements of his life are the apparent causes of my disconnection. He has been explicit throughout the relationship that he needs emotional support beyond the "norm" from his emotional partners, and leaving feels like I'm actually truly abandoning him without really trying, which feels so unfair. I also have totally lost perspective about what it will look like to live alone again, and so has he. This is the first time living with a partner for both of us, and this could be more emotionally crushing than I'm capable of recognizing while still in the situation.

As it is now I mean to save as much money as possible and loosely plan, without expecting to follow though, to move at the end of the academic year next June. After allllll that background, here's the question(s): Is it cruel to save money with the intention to move out while also performing all the "good girlfriend" stuff, both to keep AJ happy and to try and convince myself to stop wanting to leave? Is there actually any way to do this gracefully? And finally, the probably impossible question, should I actually leave or is it worth it/possible to try and convince him and myself to get into the relationship therapy saddle and try to fix my possibly unfair and immature contempt, disconnection and general feelings of malaise in order to preserve a relationship that quite honestly is probably a good thing for me...on paper?
posted by zinful to Human Relations (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should get your money together as soon as possible and leave right away. He will have no trouble finding someone who appreciates him and you shouldn't stand in the way.
posted by catspajammies at 1:34 PM on September 7, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'd recommend focusing your attention on finding a new job that pays better, so that you can be on equal footing with AJ. From there, I think you'd be able to better sort your own feelings and make your own decisions.
posted by slateyness at 1:35 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Of course you should leave. I knew that was the answer after the first sentence and everything you said in this post reaffirmed that initial impression, especially your reasons for staying, which boil down to 1) using him for his money and 2) assuming he's an incapable child who can't handle life without you. I mean, these reasons for not leaving are not kind. And you want to keep the status quo until next June? You only get one life here, and so does he, and wasting nearly a year with a partner for whom you feel contempt is definitely not something I would want to do. Do you really want to do that?

Get a roommate. Get two roommates. Figure something out. But staying in this situation is a really bad idea for both of you.
posted by something something at 1:37 PM on September 7, 2016 [38 favorites]


If it makes you feel any better about leaving him, I don't think him expecting you to pay $1000/month in rent when you're making thirty grand a year and he makes 4x that, even factoring in the two months of free rent when you have summers off, is particularly generous, or even reasonable.
posted by cakelite at 1:39 PM on September 7, 2016 [49 favorites]


(I mean, he's telling you that he wants to take care of his partner and let her live her dreams and not worry about money and blah blah blah, but here you are, paying more than you can afford in rent, with no savings.)
posted by cakelite at 1:43 PM on September 7, 2016 [38 favorites]


Have you actually talked to AJ at all about this, or tried to work any of it out, or sought any type of counseling?

I hear that you've fallen out of love, and it's over, and you definitely need an escape plan from this relationship. I think it's odd that you've settled on that and yet also typed thousands of words about how great AJ is, and the absolutely resolvable obstacles in your relationship. But, OK, you say you want to go. So sure, go.

But the fact that your first impulse here is to just continue keeping up the "good girlfriend" act while you plot to break up with AJ out of the blue is really concerning to me. Again, especially because it doesn't appear in your very long story of your relationship like you've ever actually worked at solving any of your problems, or even communicated with AJ that anything was wrong.

Just fucking talk to AJ. Not us. AJ.

This is what people mean when they say that relationships take work. You have to actually convey to the other person when there's a problem, or you're unhappy, or some aspect of your day to day lives makes you incompatible. (I mean the "how to spend our free time" question seems solvable in like one conversation where you say, "I know you don't like unstructured time outside the house, but I feel stir crazy, so I'm joining this book club.") If you're looking for a relationship where both of you want exactly the same things in the same timeframe, and you both spend your time in exactly the same ways, and have perfectly meshed attitudes to literally everything all the way down to housework, and never experience any conflict, you will never be in a relationship that makes you happy so you might as well give up now.

If you ever intend to fight for a relationship, this one seems as good as any.

You seem to want to break up with AJ, so do that I guess. But please use this as a learning experience that relationships require communication.
posted by Sara C. at 1:55 PM on September 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


Leave. I think this is he first time I've ever wanted to say this on a post like this: leave and let him find the person who will appreciate and love him back, versus using him as a meal ticket right now.
posted by Nyx at 2:04 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sounds like you've started to talk to AJ about this. Good. Maybe spill more beans to AJ than you already have.

I don't want to take advantage of anyone for financial reasons, ever, but I also don't want to end up sleeping on a friend's couch with two cats in tow because I have Feelings about my Freedoms that are possibly unrealistic or immature.


Maybe AJ would be ok with some sort of arrangement through next June, but you won't know until you ask. Otherwise, there are few delicate ways to say that you have a choice between taking advantage of AJ's finances or sleeping on your friend's couch -- or, as someone above mentioned, finding roommates and adjusting your standard of living down to where you can afford it. Such a place exists. You might not like it, but maybe that will give you the circumstances to fixate on as motivation to improve your living conditions to a state you prefer. Instead of fixating on AJ's role in addressing your issues.

AJ has a chronic digestive disorder that can randomly cause massive amounts of pain combined with untreated anxiety; this prevents participation in virtually all unstructured activities outside the home ... I also feel horribly ableist and self centered that I'm not interested in being a supportive and loving partner to someone with chronic pain and anxiety, and that those elements of his life are the apparent causes of my disconnection.

Well, there you go. AJ has told you he needs more than you're comfortable or able to give in terms of his condition. I'm identifying with AJ here -- I have one of these conditions, too -- and letting you know (or agreeing with you?) that it's not your place to judge how AJ responds to his anxiety. It doesn't need treatment beyond staying close to home if that's what makes AJ comfortable.

Tell this all to AJ. If he responds with a willingness to tide you over until June, go for it. If not, respond accordingly.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:08 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


So much text. I got the gist of it though, which is that you don't much care for the guy; and that while you seem to think he is generous, in fact he charges you an amount of rent that makes it impossible for you to build up any savings. (Maybe you came up with that number and are now realizing it was too high? I don't know.) Anyway, you shouldn't be dating a guy you aren't into; and (separately) you shouldn't pay so much in rent that you can't save. Break up with him; and find a more realistic living situation.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:36 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


You're not in love with AJ and you should move out immediately. Get the money somehow (borrow from someone, take a cash advance on a credit card, whatever) and get an apartment with roommates. You, AJ, the cats, you'll all be better off. Stop thinking of it as being "financially ruined". You'll just be broke for a while. Find a better job. Find a second job. Be independent, and don't move in again with someone until you have a lot of savings and a better idea of what you want. Moving in together for financial reasons usually is a bad idea.
posted by clone boulevard at 2:51 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is so much utter bullshit. If he makes four times what you make, why are you incapable of saving? Why does he need to bleed you for the maximum rent he can extract while you also take care of everything for him on some excuse or other of his -- he is in grad school, he has health issues, blah blah blah.

I think he is the one taking advantage of you and always has. He wants you to be financially dependent upon him because then he can manipulate you into being everything he needs even though he has nothing else to bring to the table.

You should probably leave sooner rather than later. The longer you stay, the more he will bleed you for taking care of him while acting like he shouldn't have to support you.

You got screwed. You are getting screwed. The sooner you leave, the sooner you can recover financially from this user.
posted by Michele in California at 2:55 PM on September 7, 2016 [35 favorites]


This sounds like a truly terrible relationship for you. The entire text above is akin to saying, 'I have a plate of beans. I hate beans but I am forcing myself to eat them. Also the beans make me feel bad about myself. What do I do?'

Leave the guy. Forget the one year plan, that is not feasible -- and HE could break up with YOU before that time, and you'll still be out on your own. So leave. I have faith you can do it.

Also all that stuff about labor and health sounds like bs to me. If you can't hold up your end of the partnership that's a bad partnership. And nthing that you are getting screwed on rent.
posted by tooloudinhere at 3:03 PM on September 7, 2016


Chiming back in here once more because this was bugging me:

he has mentioned multiple times that me leaving after he has covered rent for 2 months would be a clear sign that I was taking advantage of him.

Uhhhh who cares what he thinks about you leaving him? We don't break up with people in order to please them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:06 PM on September 7, 2016 [29 favorites]


"he has mentioned multiple times that me leaving after he has covered rent for 2 months would be a clear sign that I was taking advantage of him."

Yeah, this line seems to indicate that he's already building up a story in his head wherein - Oh no! Woe is me, the heartless wench used me for my money all this time (Even though I make 4 times (!) what she does and despite claiming to want to love and support her (or any woman, really, I just wanted someone to make a home with!); I did none of the work required in maintaining said home and she was not able to save any of her salary.
And also, she never took care of me enough.

Sorry, he might be much nicer than that, but just- if you don't like him, don't make yourself stay because you feel guilty and some of him is nice, some of the time.
posted by and her eyes were wild. at 3:22 PM on September 7, 2016 [21 favorites]


Yeah, my sympathy for the guy pretty much died at that line. He's already planning his narrative for you to be the bitch who used him and then left him, OP. Might as well get while the getting's good.
posted by praemunire at 5:03 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


AJ has mentioned that I "never have to grow up" due to my career as well as my outlook on life

Uh, no. That, plus his charging you more rent than you can afford, plus his acting like charging you more rent than you can afford is him "caring" for you, makes him sound contemptuous and condescending, and like he's playing on your insecurities to keep you off-balance and controllable. Figure out what you need to do financially and do it, but I wouldn't worry that you're taking advantage of him while you're figuring it out.
posted by lazuli at 6:07 PM on September 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


Michele in California, cakelite, fingersandtoes, lazuli, everyone on that train is right. He's a control freak, leveraging his "support" against you. You would never not "owe" him, nothing you could do would be as valuable as his money in his eyes (and by the sounds of it, nothing you could do would be enough. And his needs would just creep and creep...). His math is definitely fucked, feel no guilt about leaving.

I also don't want to end up sleeping on a friend's couch with two cats in tow because I have Feelings about my Freedoms that are possibly unrealistic or immature.

What's immature about not wanting to feel controlled by or beholden to another person?

My interests are considered less healthy, functional or mutually possible

You're not the "right" kind of person, according to him, that it? What else doesn't he approve of?

He's gotten to you already, his voice has wormed its way into your brain. It can take a long time to get a worm like that out. Start now.

Being broke - yeah it's less superficially comfortable than staying in a nice prison. What's more uncomfortable is feeling like the sort of person you are is worthless, wrong, and deserves to be controlled by someone else.

You can pick up other work, it'll keep you busy for a while, which is good. You can get a roommate. (Not sure what your odds'll be like renting or searching for housemates with two cats in Seattle, but goddamn it if you should stay in this for the sake of pets. They don't appreciate the sacrifice you're making. Maybe you could find someone to take care of them until you're on your feet? You get just the one life.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:29 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Mm yep my alarm bells went off at

When the relationship started, we were both still managing big feelings from very recently ended abusive relationships

and they just kept ringin. Sometimes when you come out of abuse you seek it out again. And sometimes when you come out of abuse you heap it upon someone else because it's what you know and you'll be damned if you'll be on the *receiving* end again.

(The first one is you, and I am pretty sure the second one is your partner.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:45 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


If he actually cares about and appreciates you at all, I think he should happily write you a check for a few thousand dollars for supporting him so devotedly through grad school.

He doesn't use his big salary to make your life more comfortable. He doesn't put out when you ask for sex. You wait on him hand and foot so he can pursue his dreams while he insults you.

I cannot fathom why you have anything nice to say about him. Perhaps more accurately, your previous ex must be a serious putz that this guy seems like a nice guy to you.

I am so sorry you are in this crappy situation.
posted by Michele in California at 6:49 PM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


If he actually cares about and appreciates you at all, I think he should happily write you a check for a few thousand dollars for supporting him so devotedly through grad school.

Yeah, I mean, if you had married, your emotional and domestic labour would have been guaranteed a monetary value, by law, because it would have been seen as contributing to his wealth and wellbeing, and ultimately to shared resources. Unfortunately, you haven't been protected in this way. (And it doesn't sound like he's really been sharing very well, as MiC points out.)

The unknown is always scarier than the known, and it is hard to think about changing circumstances, when you're used to them. But, you do have skills - it'll just take some thinking to figure out how to sell them in new ways. Remember what it was like to just do the things you wanted to do? With nobody hassling or judging you? Being alone again will be like that :)

(You didn't get together with him for his money... feel free to ignore or ghost punch anyone making the disgusting suggestion that you've been using him for a "meal ticket".)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:27 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


When my old dog died, I got another too soon. Molly spent her life being Not Beauty. It sounds like AJ has been Not Ex your whole relationship long. Now that you recognize it, you can't pretend he's anything else, and you shouldn't. I don't think your rent or your comfortable situation is or has been unfair at all, as you've both accommodated each other in various incalculable ways - but it was on the premise that there was love and respect there. Since you no longer have that, and neither of you can quite perform as if there is, it's probably better to part. My husband and I say, "Sometimes you're the flower, sometimes you're the gardener." The particulars now don't matter - it could have been anyone who had enough of AJ's qualities at the time. He was just really convenient (and, looking back at your question - handsome), and you've been comfortable long enough now to see beyond the rebound stage. Get help with budgeting first, and get yourself standing on your own two feet. And then, if you really want another relationship, find someone whom you like that meets your criteria for a partner - other than merely being Not AJ.
posted by peagood at 7:29 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is it cruel to save money with the intention to move out while also performing all the "good girlfriend" stuff, both to keep AJ happy and to try and convince myself to stop wanting to leave?

Yeah, it kind of is. "I stayed with you because I needed a nice townhouse to live in, but I knew I didn't love you...well anyway I made you dinner every night." This is not, probably, the person you want to be in 9 months from now. Also, it doesn't sound at all good for you in most ways.

Is there actually any way to do this gracefully?

Define 'this'? I think there is a way to exit gracefully. Find a room to rent that allows cats and make a firm, uncruel break. I know it is hard, hard, hard to be facing uncertain finances but...that is adulting. You can make a life for yourself that is good and solid. Pretending to love someone when you know you don't and that it's not healthy in order to preserve your lifestyle probably is not.

And finally, the probably impossible question, should I actually leave or is it worth it/possible to try and convince him and myself to get into the relationship therapy saddle and try to fix my possibly unfair and immature contempt, disconnection and general feelings of malaise in order to preserve a relationship that quite honestly is probably a good thing for me...on paper?

I think you should leave. The defining sentence, apart from all the dysfunction, is this one: I don't love him any longer
posted by warriorqueen at 8:15 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


i say this from very close personal experience: whatever you THINK are the logistical and financial barriers that are preventing you from moving out//forcing you to stay in this loveless relationship for nearly another year...

You're wrong about them. You just are. It's impossible to evaluate your financial situation objectively when you're enmeshed in a relationship that's premised on the idea of this kind of imbalance, where one person is giving 100% of the emotional support and the other person is supporting them financially, because of how 'helpless' they are. It sucks being helpless. He is not giving you a gift by making you feel that way, and you are not being noble by enduring that feeling.

Just fucking get out. The details will work themselves out. You're obviously smart and educated; you're not powerless. If you break up with him tonight, 24 hours now, you might be terrified and living on a friend's couch, but you will be breathing freely again for the first time and you'll realize there is no amount of money or security that can even come close to the joy of being able to breathe.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:41 PM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


He knows you don't love him and believes he is paying you to stay with him - that's what the "two months rent" line meant I think. I completely agree with Michelle in California's take on this. He is a guy who is pretending to be nice in order to get what he wants rather than an actual nice guy.

So, the money thing. Would it be possible for you to find a way to earn extra money? Are you completely committed to continue to adjunct which is pretty notorious for being a financial black hole or would you be willing to look for a better paying job? Could you work summers doing something else? Part time evenings/weekends? As a professor of feminist theory I don't think you really need me or anyone else to tell you that you can be independent and don't have to rely on a man for financial support. Being in a bad relationship for the rest of your life is not your only option - I mean, come on, seriously?
posted by hazyjane at 10:21 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Because right now, you're in a cage with golden bars.
posted by hazyjane at 10:48 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree that AJ is pretending to be nice while actually being a controlling asshole. You should get out as soon as you can, because the longer you stay, the more ground-down you're going to feel.

If you're worried about finding a new place, I just skimmed Craigslist and found this studio (that is also cat-friendly) in Capitol Hill for $625 a month. There's another studio apartment downtown in the International District for $618 a month. Here's one with a 36 year-old woman renting out the upstairs floor of her house for $495 a month who is also ok with cats.
posted by colfax at 11:33 PM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


So, market rate in your neighborhood is probably about $1600-$1900, right? People getting on about the "how dare he charge you such rent" are probably glossing over this. You're getting a deal and I sympathize with this.

Cut your expenses, lower your standard of living, leave. It's best for the both of you.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:00 AM on September 8, 2016


Rent a room in a house in an uncool area and be really frugal for a while, you are not as stuck in these circumstances as you think. You could also do with spending some time on yourself and thinking about what you want in life and relationships, but without overthinking everything because it sounds like you could make shakespeare out of a frowny glance. Simplify and learn to call a spade a spade and use it to shovel instead of discussing how it might actually be a misunderstood trowel or shovel or who cares what.
posted by meepmeow at 1:23 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's no way you should be paying $1000 a month when you make about $30,000 a year and your partner makes more than 4 x as much as you. $1000 is simply not affordable at your income bracket .. the reality is that you will not be financially ruined if you leave: you will be financially ruined if you *stay*.

Let me be very clear about this: You are NOT getting a "deal". A deal is something you can afford, that leaves you with money in the bank. You have no money in the bank - and your partner makes WAY more than you. He's not being generous -- and the line about you supposedly taking advantage of him if you leave? That's emotional abuse and manipulation.. this should make it VERY clear to you that he does not have your best interests at heart.

You describe your relationship as "otherwise stable and loving", but this is not stable (you're broke and financially dependent on an asshole) or loving (he's an asshole). If the only issue you had was that he wasn't pulling his weight with household chores, you two would still have a serious problem on your hand.. but you have that plus a bunch of other things that are not compatible with a healthy, happy relationship.

With all this said, I was once in your shoes -- I felt stuck in a relationship because I couldn't see my way out financially. Trust me: with some ingenuity, help from friends and determination, CAN do this. You can absolutely leave him. Reach out to your support network, friends and family -- see if anyone can help you get on your feet. Is your name on the lease? Figure out what your obligations are.. and next time? Do NOT move in with a romantic partner because you can't afford to live on your own. By definition a stable relationship requires that both people are stable on their own two feet. If you find yourself in a situation where the rent is too high, move somewhere you can afford, even if it's simple and not especially luxurious.. until you can afford something better. Hell, even live with family (if that is a viable option) before you leave with a man for financial reasons.

Don't worry about his emotional well-being. He's an adult - he will have to learn how to take care of himself. Don't worry about how crushing you think it will be to live alone -- it will be an adjustment but it will also be one billion times better than the shit show you are experiencing now. Plan to leave him as soon as possible - not the end of the academic year. See who among your support system can help you get out and then get out.
posted by Gray Skies at 4:51 AM on September 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


I was 38 when things go bad enough for me to finally snap and leave our 3-bedroom house very suddenly. I lived with 3 guys for awhile, then lived in a studio apartment for awhile. Everything was in storage. I was in better financial circumstances, to be fair, but I survived.

More importantly, please talk to AJ before you snap and burn it all down (figuratively) and never want to talk to him or see him again. I don't know if that would happen, but it makes me sad on some level that there's this person out there that I still despise. I wish I had gotten out when we could have still been civil, at least.
posted by cabingirl at 5:17 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like there's things you aren't saying. Your question is full of self-loathing and guilt, a lot of "I am a bad person because I want to leave this perfect person", but then you give examples of him manipulating you/putting you down and "pulling rank" because he makes more or he's in grad school or he has a disability. It also sounds like you don't feel like you can do activities without him which is unrealistic but makes me wonder if he guilt trips you whenever you try to do them.

It honestly doesn't sound like your contempt is one-sided. It sounds like both of you are contemptuous of the other. Your contempt stems from feeling trapped and manipulated. His contempt stems from you not being appreciative enough of his generosity. Frankly, he doesn't sound like as great of a catch as you make him out to be. I have been the more affluent and disabled partner in live-in arrangements before and when I buffered the other person's rent I did not expect them to pay me back in household chores or emotional labour, and while my disabled needs might be different than expected I also did not expect my partners to give up their lives in order to become eggshell-walking caregivers. His actual level of generosity doesn't match the narrative you have presented.

You need to get out of this situation. I think it's warping your ideas of what financial self-sufficiently looks like. If you make ~30K a year, your savings are going to be thin, and that's not a personal failing but a feature of capitalism. Find yourself a place you CAN afford that will accept your cats, even if it's not ideal, tap into your support system, and leave. Staying will not make it better. Staying will not make you more prepared. Staying will just make you miserable. Sure it seems impossible right now but once you're on the other side, once the dust has settled, you'll be able to see just how much you were putting up with that was tearing you down.

If breakups only happened when they were easy, they would never happen.
posted by buteo at 12:04 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


i say this from very close personal experience: whatever you THINK are the logistical and financial barriers that are preventing you from moving out//forcing you to stay in this loveless relationship for nearly another year...

You're wrong about them. You just are. It's impossible to evaluate your financial situation objectively when you're enmeshed in a relationship that's premised on the idea of this kind of imbalance, where one person is giving 100% of the emotional support and the other person is supporting them financially, because of how 'helpless' they are. It sucks being helpless. He is not giving you a gift by making you feel that way, and you are not being noble by enduring that feeling.


So... i've been on both sides of this(the supporting person who makes more and the person who is making nothing/less and being supported) more than once, and this is seriously true.

You will find a place you can afford, even if it's kind of a squeaker. You will realize you were not "trapped". You'll find a situation that works, maybe even get more hours/a new job/etc and wonder why you stuck it out so long.

I, right now, am living in a place i never thought i could afford alone. My ex partner thought she couldn't afford a place in town and ended up finding a quirky and sort of small but nice/safe/decent place a totally reasonable commute from her work and in a decent part of town. We both ended up... pretty happy, honestly.

Ripping the band aid off and the uncertainty sucked. The first few weeks/months sucked. But then i realized the entire "i can't possibly do this" was an illusion on both our parts.

By the way, once we started looking hard, multiple options and paths forward emerged. It wasn't like there was one golden option by chance and nothing else.
posted by emptythought at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, there are many areas(especially in "cool coastal cities") where $1000/mo for a room is totally market rate. There's some places where $800-1000 is the rent for a room in a sketchy shithole. You never said what the total rent on the place was, or where you are, or what rent there is and everyone just jumped to "financial abuse!" basically. If it's say, $3000 a month for a townhouse or w/e(which would be normal where i am, or even more) that's... Not that shitty? Should he be charging her $500? idgi. That's the reality of living in some cool places, and i could easily see the other portion of the rent being 2 or even $3000. There's a big difference between "he's sucking all your money to control you!" and "he said i only had to pay 1/4 of the rent".
posted by emptythought at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


You teach feminist philosophy, and therefore you of all people shouldn't want to be that woman stuck in an unhappy relationship because she cannot afford to leave.
posted by Kwadeng at 9:59 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a relationship where neither of you truly likes (never mind loves) the other. You each feel that you should, maybe, because certain "good relationship" checkboxes are ticked and you both have some genuinely good qualities, but the fact is that you just don't. You have differing interests, differing needs for emotional support and engagement, differing abilities to contribute to finances and household labor, differing sex drives. These differences aren't bad per se and some of them might be resolvable in a satisfactory way, but you feel resentment and contempt for each other's differences—him for your outside interests, you for his anxiety and emotional fragility. Contempt is a relationship killer.

You are mutually exploiting each other for near-term emotional comfort and financial/logistical convenience at the expense of your long-term happiness. Both of you are in the wrong to a degree here—neither of you is the unambiguous villain in this story. Both of you can do better than this.
Is it cruel to save money with the intention to move out while also performing all the "good girlfriend" stuff, both to keep AJ happy and to try and convince myself to stop wanting to leave?
Yes it is.

My ex-partner and I broke up for various reasons, some of which were what I'll term value-neutral—incompatible goals for career paths and family life, incompatible approaches to making major decisions, diverging financial needs to due age difference. Not resolvable, but not wrong as such. The one think I don't forgive her for, though, is that she wasn't honest with me about not actually wanting to share a home and a partnered life with me or with anyone. What you are proposing to do to AJ is what she did to me—performing the "good partner stuff" because she liked some things about me and liked the support I gave her, and because she thought it would "keep me happy", like you say about AJ.

What a waste. What a waste for her, trying to bend herself into fit a role that was never comfortable for her to fill. What a waste for me, spending all those years with her when I could have found someone who actually shared my family values.

Life is short. Both of you have an opportunity to find a loving partnership with someone else, but not if you stay in this exploitative arrangement. Find an affordable room share and move out.
posted by 4rtemis at 10:32 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


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