How do I break up?
November 26, 2016 2:51 AM   Subscribe

I've come to the painful conclusion that I should break up with my girlfriend, soon to be fiancé. Please help me work through these emotions and the logistics of such.

I'm torn at the thought of breaking my girlfriend's heart. We've been together for 2 years (both 26 years old) and she's been pushing me towards marriage. I've been teetering on the fence of such but in my heart I don't feel like it's the right decision. Most of the time I can convince myself that she's a good match for me and love is a choice and she'll make a good partner but once a month I'm overwhelmed with the feeling that this isn't right and I need to end the relationship now rather than later. Sometimes I just assure myself that divorce isn't the end of the world, other times I'm hoping a deer jumps through my windshield and crushes my skull. We've had conversations about some of these feelings, particularly about my hesitancy to rush into marriage, and in the middle of them all I hope for is to break up, but inevitably I sleep on it and wake up wanting to just coast along in our mostly happy relationship. She supports me in my career trajectory and in my day to day but deep down I feel like she stifles me. I am myself with her but I feel like she suppresses my joyful spirit rather than encourages it. We purchased a ring that she picked out and I've asked her father's permission but now more than ever I am having feelings of doubt and panic. What do you make of these feelings? On the one hand I realize a relationship is work and effort but on the other hand I want to be excited for marriage, not feeling like I'm getting dragged into it, not feeling like I need to convince myself this is the right thing to do. My family doesn't particularly like her and nor do my friends. I feel like I have to feign excitement when I tell my friends our plans to be engaged.

If I do proceed to break up with her this weekend, what are your tips and suggestions for untangling our lives together? We're both students but I have passive income and pay for the apartment we live in together (lease for 1 more year). I would prefer to stay in the apartment, especially as I can afford it while she can't. It's possible she could live with a friend while she finishes up school until May but I feel bad having her move out and I'm not sure she would agree to that. I could also move into a friend's place but I definitely would prefer not to.

We have two dogs together. I take care of them mostly, both financially and when it comes to taking care of them (just now it was like pulling teeth to have her walk them for the first time this week). I worry about our ability individually to take care of the dogs because we're both in school. She might suggest sharing the responsibility but I don't feel like we should share continued responsibility. I feel like I would be better prepared to take care of them but she is very emotionally attached. The dogs aren't best of friends so it would be possible to split them up.

We have a couple trips planned, most notably one to Mexico next month. I wouldn't want to go solo. She could go solo but for frequent flier reasons she would have to purchase a new likely pricey airline ticket for which she doesn't have money. Forfeiting the reservation would lose the $800 deposit. At this point I'm thinking that might just be the best option. Splitting up isn't cheap (ring, vacation, new apt., etc) but I imagine it is definitely cheaper than divorce.

These are just some thoughts typed out in a hurry on my phone. She truly loves me and we're best friends and it absolutely pains me to break her heart but I feel like this is the best path forward. I'm sure I could cruise through life with her side by side but I think we both deserve someone better matched. My heart just truly isn't in it. Maybe I will come to regret this but I truly don't think so. I know I'll be sad without her but my feelings are primarily of relief when I think about it. Though then again traditionally I am good at convincing myself it's a good idea to break up...

A little extra backstory is that I broke up with her in May. After a few days apart she convinced me to get back together. I was able to convince myself that it was the right thing to do but deep down inside I regret not sticking to my guns.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (49 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You sound so, so lukewarm on her. Why are you trying to justify *marrying* her over a few thousand dollars in rent and vacations when you can't even trust her to take care of the dogs if you split up?

You've only been together two years and you feel like she "suppresses [your] joyful spirit". Yes, love is a choice, but at least start out from a baseline happy relationship, not just one that's slightly difficult to walk away from. She'll be heartbroken, but she deserves to marry someone who's actually excited about being with her.
posted by hollyholly at 3:16 AM on November 26, 2016 [56 favorites]

I married someone when I had similar thoughts that went unspoken. Nine years later I told him I wanted a divorce. He was relieved. I was relieved. But that was nine years of both our lives wasted. Tell her today. Don't waste another day.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:17 AM on November 26, 2016 [60 favorites]

If you would rather a deer crushes your skull than marry her, (really?!) for the love of God, end it. End it kindly but end it now. This poor woman deserves more than someone who would rather welcome death than to be with her. You're not that wonderful that she can't cope with life without you, she can, she will, and the only thing stopping her right now is you.

I'm reading a lot here about your concerns - mainly for yourself. You don't want to move out of the apartment, you don't want to lose money on a trip...yeah, you're not into her even a little bit, are you? I mean, you couch it as concern for her, but it's not really - it's about what will be best for you. So sure, break her heart now. Just don't marry her and destroy her life. And for Pete's sake, let her have the apartment. It's the least you can do.
posted by Jubey at 4:18 AM on November 26, 2016 [38 favorites]

You sound so passive about all this, and that isn't going to do anyone any good. You talk about what she wants and how she is dragging you along, but you are making the choice to go along (asking her father?!). 26 is a great age to break up. You're not that established, and you have only been together a couple years.

As for the practical stuff. Her moving out sounds like the only option, but if she is on the lease that may be much more difficult than you'd like. If she is finacially dependent on you, she may need a couple months to get it together. Breaking up takes time, and people continue to live together after they break up, sometimes for months. You don't have to have all the hard conversations on the same night.

Don't share "dog-parenting" duties after you stop living together. That is a disaster. There isn't an easy solution, but there are more practical and less practical solutions.

Mexico: why would she need to buy a new ticket? If you don't want to go and you're ending the relationship AND you want to have her move out- maybe you take the cost of her air fare on the chin. Or you can suck it up and lose the 800$. When it comes down to it- 800$ (or the cost of a plane ticket) just isn't that much money. Your happiness (and hers!) is worth a lot more than that.

Regardless- the least kind thing to do is marry this person when the narrative you've built is that she is making you do it. At the very very very least- you should put the breaks on the marriage honestly. "I need more time, more than months" is something between breaking up and doing this thing. If she needs to move faster and gives you an ultimatum- then you still get what you are pretty sure you want.

Do not continue on the path to marriage with someone you see and manipulating ir pressuring you into it. You are in charge of your own choices, and if you put all the blame on her now- just imagine the resentment you'll feel later. If you don't want to be "dragged", stop.
posted by Blisterlips at 4:34 AM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Stop talking to other people about 'planning to be engaged'. You aren't engaged.

You need to sit her down and talk her through it- and make sure you emphasise that you don't want to talk yourself into a marriage, you want to really truly mean it- and right now, you don't mean it.

(I was the 'pursuer' early in my relationship- and as a result I needed my now fiancé to do the asking for the marriage step- I couldn't pressure him into it, and I didn't want the thought in the back of my mind that he was just along for the ride. She might not feel the same way but it might be worth mentioning.)

You should probably talk to someone professional about this too- therapy would be helpful to help you process this.

Christmas is coming up- did you have plans to see each other's families or was this the Mexico trip? While I agree with Blisterlips that a 'brakes on' conversation is perhaps a better way to go, definitely have this conversation before Christmas. It will be sucky, but not as sucky as realising that you were being 'fake' in a relationship over a special season.

If you are breaking-up, don't do anything special to set up the breakup conversation- she will be primed to look for a proposal. (No nice dinner, no going out somewhere picturesque, etc. You want to be somewhere normal.) Maybe you could crash with a friend for a night and have the conversation with her before gracefully exiting to allow her to process her feelings.
posted by freethefeet at 4:59 AM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

From the way you talk about it, you are already broken up in your mind.

She deserves to know that you are in the mindset of "done"; to continue to do otherwise is just lying.

Do not go on a trip with her to save a few bucks.
Do not sleep with her.
Over is over.

Everything else will work itself out, but you've got to sit her down and tell her that it's over. Because, by your own words, it is.

You both deserve a shot at real happiness, and right now you two are in each other's way of getting that.
posted by blueberry at 5:29 AM on November 26, 2016 [24 favorites]

Because everyone's gone into detail about why you should, and your title is "how do I break up with my girlfriend?", here's Miko's Metafilter classic break-up advice.

Do this cleanly, quickly and kindly, and you will have a few years of your mid-20s which you can look back on with nostalgia as somewhere you learned what you value and need, and you may well still be friends with her in 5 years time. Do it wrong, and you'll have a messy hole of regret to look back at.

But it'll be really hard work rebuilding your plans over the next few months. You're aiming for the target of rebuilding yourself so you can say you can do difficult things kindly.
posted by ambrosen at 5:37 AM on November 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

I don't know why you are being vilified. It's hard to break up with people, even if you know it needs to happen. She also sounds quite problematic: never takes care of the dogs, and has walked them exactly once, even though you live together? Has been pressuring you to get married at 26, despite hesitancy which you say you have expressed to her in some form at least? And she 'convinced' you to get back together after you had broken up?

You aren't off the hook for letting this go on so long, and you chose to get back together with her after the brief breakup, but it is very common to let an absurd situation go on too long, and people have all kinds of trauma in their lives that makes it very hard to let someone go. It's normal. And it is also normal to want to keep your apartment, which you seem to pay for in its entirety, and which you say she can't afford on her own anyway.

I recommend the least amount of contact possible after the breakup, since you were able to fall back into the relationship last time. I would definitely not live together afterward for any amount of time if possible (and seriously: you don't 'owe' her your whole apartment just because it's you who wants to end things.) How you manage the practical aspects of that is up to you to figure out, but it seems smart to make it clear and irrevocable and non-'fuzzy'/vague, etc. Good luck, it is hard to hurt someone and upend your life. It makes you human, not a lame weak-willed monster.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:00 AM on November 26, 2016 [37 favorites]

When I read your ask, I felt overwhelmed by all the things you felt needed to be sorted out almost before you could break up: the apartment, the dogs, the trips, school, friends. And it's true, those things will need to be sorted out, but I think you could have a lot more clarity if you just realized that those things will be sorted out somehow. And it's hard to predict or know what your then-ex girlfriend is going to suggest when it comes to the details and what you're going to be willing to agree to or not.

So I think that if I were you, I would try to stop that avalanche of planning and what ifs and options post breakup and just focus on what's right in front of you: the fact that a breakup is what needs to happen, and sooner rather than later. Plan for and have that difficult conversation and then save worrying about everything else for after that.
posted by pinkacademic at 6:36 AM on November 26, 2016 [25 favorites]

I'm sure I could cruise through life with her side by side but I think we both deserve someone better matched. My heart just truly isn't in it.

I know I'll be sad without her but my feelings are primarily of relief when I think about it.

I broke up with her in May... I regret not sticking to my guns.

You've answered your own question. Let her go. Break ups are not fun, but you will (both) be glad you did in the long run.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 6:44 AM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

We purchased a ring that she picked out

1. She's your fiancee, not "soon-to-be," don't kid yourself.

2. drop the grandiosity about breaking her heart, it's encouraging you to delay and delay and feel extremely important about it. You are not making a decision about her heart, you are making a decision about your relationship and future. yours.

3. You don't have the right to make all decisions about the apartment and the dogs and her schooling and vacation independently before telling her. She gets to express her opinion and make some of those choices, which she cannot do until you tell her it's over. If you effectively control all the finances due to your passive income, whatever that may entail, you get to force your way on most of it, but the only decent thing is to move out of the apartment and give her a month or two there alone to work out her own plans for practical living before you come back and reclaim it. do not kick her out right after Thanksgiving and right before the rest of the holidays. I might say differently if you couldn't afford it, but you can.

4. She will not believe you at first because you fucked her around the first time with a fake break-up. For that reason it will be more excruciating than it has to be but there is no way around it. just do it. justifying it will be the easiest thing in the world, as will be trying to explain why she should believe you really mean it this time. don't. just do it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:57 AM on November 26, 2016 [18 favorites]

Were you living together the last time you tried to break up? If so, how is that different? If not...yeah you've fucked up, and the best time to start tying to fix that is right fucking now.

Neither of you seem mature enough for a (responsible) marriage. Which is fine! You're both really young, and I don't know many people (anyone?) who hasn't changed drastically from who they were at 26, so it seems like a difficult age for making life-long partnerships.

Just get out. Accept your share responsibility for this -- and I think this is why people are reacting to your question with some degree of side eye, because from how you've phrased things, it seems clear you're not accepting a lot of responsibility for your choices in a way that's kind of...gas lighty, so, yeah -- break up with her, go no contact for a while, and then continue to reflect on the ways you're responsible for your own choices, because you probably still won't be done.

But yeah. Follow the advice linked above, so long as you remember that you are not allowed to control her reaction to having her heartbroken. She might not (isn't, bc you've been stringing her along) going to take this very well, but oh well, you have to do it anyway. Apologizing for not doing the work to figure out what you wanted earlier, and then get out of each other's way. There's no perfect or correct way to do this, and under the circumstances, likely no amicable way. You just have to do it anyway. That's what adulthood is--doing shit you don't want to do but that has to get done.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:59 AM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

End this relationship ASAP. You're done, and you need to prevent further expenses and plans being made. The last thing you need to do is end up married to someone you don't even want to marry, just because it's easier to avoid conflict than have a hard conversation.

Break up with her this weekend. Give her 30 days to find a new place. You keep the apartment and the dogs, because you can pay for the former and do all the care for the latter. Eat the reservation to Mexico or....really, go solo, or invite a pal. You might just find that a few days of lounging on a beach with a book might be a great way to "reset". Sell the ring on EBay or pawn it.

All these costs are negligible in the overall scheme of things. You're talking about a few thousand dollars at best. This is not a reason to marry someone!

"Honey, I care about you a lot, but I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I don't think we're right for each other. I am not going to marry you. I've already returned [gotten rid of] the ring. I don't want us to see each other anymore. When you're ready to talk about this, I'd like to go over some plans about finding you a new place to live."

And go from there. Yep, it's going to be a hard conversation, but it'll be a hell of a lot better for both of you to have it now, before the holidays, before more expectations are built, and before you convince yourself to passively abdicate control over your own life because it's "easy".
posted by Autumnheart at 7:03 AM on November 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

PS: She gets to keep the ring.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:15 AM on November 26, 2016 [15 favorites]

When you're ready to talk about this, I'd like to go over some plans about finding you a new place to live."

eeesh I know this is just a suggestion and a sketch, and your comment is very sound overall, but this is some paternalistic controlling and above all unnecessary phrasing. he can't help her plan her life after breaking up, whether he'd like to or not. neither his right nor his job. unless the goal is to get her so mad she enthusiastically helps with the breakup instead of trying to stop it. He can make a generous offer and I hope he does, but otherwise he can only say that he will no longer be paying for more than half the rent unless he is living there alone, express his preference to live there alone, and let her work out her own position. her position will not be a collaborative effort.

OP if asking her father for her hand in marriage was your idea I have no more advice because there is no help for such a case. but I am guessing it was her idea, and if so, she is going to have some strong opinions on the correct etiquette for jilting one's betrothed. generally the two things go together (not that jilting goes with patriarchy, but that people who are attached to any archaic social rituals are usually attached to more than one of them.) So be prepared for her to do some telling as well as some being told.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:25 AM on November 26, 2016 [16 favorites]

She can't stifle you . She can't kill your joyful spirit. Your inner life and how you express it or not is all on you. That is not her responsibility. It is yours.

When you blame her for that, it is a sign of your lack of accountability. That's yours too, not hers.

That you are in this relationship despite your very strongly felt reservations is your own doing. You are an adult and you make your own choices. The progression of this relationship, your cohabitation, your travel plans, your pets and the responsibilities they entail, and the plans you have made to marry have all arising from your choices. Your affirmative choice to do all those things.

I'm hammering on this because the passivity of your tone is really over the top. Do you accept responsibility for anything?

Quit blaming your girlfriend for your own choices.
posted by Sublimity at 7:45 AM on November 26, 2016 [51 favorites]

You should let her take as long as she needs to move out and probably stay elsewhere during that time, but for god's sake, you don't owe her an entire year of free rent just for dumping her!! Don't let anyone make you feel like you should just hand her thousands and thousands of dollars while also having to pay your own rent elsewhere, that's just crazy.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:48 AM on November 26, 2016 [10 favorites]

Also: sometimes people are just bad fits and they think they can make it work but they just can't. You're not an asshole for not wanting to spend the rest of your life with this person! I have no idea why people are jumping all over you for this incredibly common situation, frankly you are displaying a hell of a lot of maturity by ending this now. Lots of people in your position just go ahead and get married, which is an awful awful idea.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:51 AM on November 26, 2016 [10 favorites]

queenofbithynia has your answers.

I agree that you move out for 2 months + she goes on the trip alone (if she wants) + she keeps the ring. You allowed yourself to be persuaded and this is the cost of extricating yourself - YOU MUST LET GO OF THE MONEY IF YOU WANT THIS BREAKUP TO WORK.

Obviously, you go no contact after the break up, while you move out. Yep, you can not sleep together ever again.

Can you rehome the dogs? Simply give her the dogs. Do not pay for the dogs care. If she can't handle it, you may get the dogs back. Or not. IN THE FUTURE DO NOT ADOPT PETS WITH SOMEONE YOU ARE LUKEWARM ABOUT.

I realize you are 26 and these things happen, but the problem here is that you are not very responsible, you lack the ability to advocate for yourself and your boundaries in a healthy way. Do you want to know what will help the most? Get a temporary therapist specifically with learning some of the basic life skills you are lacking. This entangled situation did not happen because your ex is awful, it happened because you are entirely passive. That's your responsibility to address.
posted by jbenben at 7:56 AM on November 26, 2016 [17 favorites]

Do both of you the favor of ending this now, before the holidays. If you end it now, then you can spend the holidays with family and friends who care about you -- and so can she.

The only thing worse than ending it now will be ending it later. Both of you are in a toxic relationship, and you'll both be happier after it ends. The disruption of ending it now is less than it will be later (when you might have a home or kids or more of a life in common).

Oh, and regarding breaking her heart- yup. But that's already happening in slow motion and likely has been for some time. Better to stop the slow slicing and let her start to heal. If you want what's right for her, end it now. Fortunately, that's also what's right for you.

As for actually ending it- the details matter a lot less than just doing it already. Get yourself another place to stay for at least a few nights, break up, and go. Now is the best time, because later means you've lied to her longer about what the future will contain.

Later, you two will have to decide together at least two things: dogs, and house. I would suggest you come up with some idea of what you want, but realize you don't get to decide unilaterally. Within a couple days after breaking up and leaving, meet up in a neutral place, explain how you want to split things, hear her concerns, and be fair. If you are at all worried about your resolve to end things faltering, get a friend for backup/write down a list of why you need to end it and read when you falter/think of how relieved you will feel when the disentanglement is completed.

Lastly I would strongly suggest you push for a resolution that means you can go no contact for at least a year. So no dog-co-parenting, no continued cohabitation. One or both of you moves out, and each dog goes to only one of you (could split them or not, but don't split caretaking of any one dog).
posted by nat at 7:59 AM on November 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

re: sympathy or lack thereof, "making situations ten times worse than they ever had to be by not addressing them in a timely fashion" is something I would put on my resume under special skills, if I were a person who ever updated her resume in a timely fashion. so I understand exactly how this situation and ones just like it come into being.

but you cannot cannot cannot allow yourself to put it off, either with thoughts of how it can be less painful if you work out the exact right way to do it (there is no right way, it will be awful, the end) or thoughts of how you just can't stand it right now, maybe next week (every hour that passes will make it worse.)

you can keep this terrible character flaw for another ten years if you want before fixing it (I did!) but you have to learn to sequester it so it only aggravates your own life and not other peoples'.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:02 AM on November 26, 2016 [15 favorites]

Most of the time I can convince myself is a choice
No. No, it's not. Please end the relationship now for both your sakes.

I truly hope you find someone whom you love so much that you realize that love is not a choice.
posted by Dolley at 8:42 AM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is all a bit more dramatic than it needs to be. It will get sorted out, really—if you just take the right steps that you know you need to take. Just break up. That's it.

I waited *a year* to break up with someone. We lived together, he loved me, I didn't think he'd be able to pay rent on his own, etc etc etc. It turns out that I wasted that year of my life.

First off, that's pretty fucked-up thinking. If I didn't trust him to handle life, what was I doing with him? Secondly, he didn't move out like he said he would, so I did. I left things behind and lost some money in the process. That's the fee for getting free.

Oh, and he immediately got a job making $30k more a year the moment I was gone. She'll be fine.

"Character flaw"? AskMe loves to jump on the OP. You've coasted along and that's no good, but you can do this kindly, and it will be the best for both of you.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:47 AM on November 26, 2016 [15 favorites]

other times I'm hoping a deer jumps through my windshield and crushes my skull

Real question: are you OK? Taking this statement at face value, this relationship seems to be causing you an incredible amount of despair. It makes me wonder if there are big parts of this story we're not reading that would illuminate this despair, about yourself or your worries about how badly she would react to the news.

Anything telling you to stay is a fantasy. You know this won't go well. You know this will end in divorce or a long, unhappy, wasted life. You've tried to get out. You find her stifling. You're wracked with guilt. This doesn't seem healthy for you; the fantasy isn't worth it.

Be well, get out, heal yourself, find help if you need it.
posted by The Sock Puppet Sentience Movement at 10:33 AM on November 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

If you are jilting her after asking her father for her hand and purchasing the ring, you really, really need to be willing to eat the cost of the breakup in various ways.

First, she gets to keep the ring. This is not negotiable. It is part of the reason, historically, women got engagement rings, to partially compensate them if the guy backed out.

Secondly, if she wants the dogs, she gets to keep the dogs. Tell her you will accept them no questions asked at any time, but don't take the dogs she's deeply emotionally attached to at the same time that you throw a huge monkey wrench in her life.

Thirdly, she should be the one to stay in the apartment for at least the next few months, and you should continue paying for it with your passive income over that time. You shouldn't just break your engagement and throw her out on the street.
posted by corb at 10:39 AM on November 26, 2016 [12 favorites]

Following on corb's point: it's the right thing to put a stop to this, and it's also the right thing to admit that you've gone along with getting in way too deep, and that has been profoundly unfair to your girlfriend.

The passivity and lack of accountability, and the concern about putting up with what you don't really want because you don't want to make waves, points to the personal growth that would serve you best as a result of this debacle. I will bet that a big part of how you explain to yourself why you have been right to "go along" and cede responsibility to her is that you want to be a nice guy. Nice guys do what their girlfriends want and nice guys want their girlfriends to be happy, right?

Except that it's not nice to lie to her by omission, and it's not nice to seethe with resentment at her because you failed to voice your legitimate concerns, and it's not nice to refuse to be accountable because it's easier to sluff off the responsibility to your partner.

It's hard to face that you haven't been nice after all, but you know what? You haven't.

Do the right thing, break up honorably, admit your responsibility for making this mess, take your lumps. You may want to check out a book called No More Mr. Nice Guy for further explanation of how being so nice can really screw over the people close to you.
posted by Sublimity at 10:52 AM on November 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

Read your lease. You are probably responsible for the total amount so don't go offering to move out before you know what you are dealing with. She may not want to move out and unless your passive income is very generous you may not want to pay her rent for the next year. Make sure you put it in writing.
Don't let that stop you for breaking off the wedding. Start standing up for what you want NOW. Use "I" statements.
"I don't want to get married" I'm feeling pressured" not "You talked me into it"
Getting an emergency appointment with a therapist would be helpful just to get things straight in your head, maybe write a script. I think you can get phone consultations.
No matter what happens, now is the time to work on your communication skills.
She definitely keeps the ring.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

This is the first time I have read an AskMe where people were encouraging someone to walk away from their apartment like this. I want to stress that depending on the laws where you live, if you move out, she may be able to just stay in the apartment indefinitely and leave you on the hook for it financially-- depending on her character and potential vindictiveness. Letting her live in the apartment alone for months sounds totally insane to me, not to mention patronizing. She's an adult, not a child, and it sounds like she has family and friends in her life. She'll figure something out.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 2:54 PM on November 26, 2016 [27 favorites]

[Ask is not the place for back-and-forth arguing with other posters.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:24 PM on November 26, 2016

This is a perfect moment for "It's not you, it's me." Use it openly, honestly and over and over and over again. Because it really is the truth. Also, pull the band-aid, asap - there is nothing worse than realizing you were with someone for months who did not want to be with you.

Remember, breaking up is the kind thing to do. Staying together is not.
posted by Toddles at 6:11 PM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Why should the OP give up his home, his pets and a great deal of money just because he wants to break up?!!! I am literally stunned by the pile on. No wonder he's let this relationship go on much too long if that is supposed to be the end result. For christ sake people, what the hell?!

I'm not saying be a dick to her, but you are both adults and adults figure these things out. You could start with the offer to let her stay a month in the apartment so she has some time to get things sorted, and you could let her keep the ring. Maybe she could sell it to pay the deposit on her own place, who knows. But the pets stay with you since you are the one emotionally and financially able to care for them. She doesnt need the extra expense right now.

The main thing is, break up! Yes, its hard, but its the right thing to do and it will all work out somehow. You deserve to feel good about your life. She deserves to be with someone who truly wants to be with her. Millions of people go through break ups everyday. Its not pleasent, but it works out.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:14 PM on November 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

PS, when I said let her stay in the apartment for a month, I did not mean, alone. Do NOT move out, not even for a week. That's your home where you pay the rent. Give her as much space and compassion as you can but dont leave, you might never get back in.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:20 PM on November 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure why you're feeling the need to be so black and white now or never about this. While it is very clear that you are not in a place where marriage is a good idea. (Some apprehension is perfectly normal, but it sounds like your doubts go far beyond that), you don't necessarily need to break up tomorrow either.

You could say to her "hey, I love you but I'm not in a place where marriage is feeling right for me" and maybe stay together for a bit longer (if she is OK with that) and see how things go. What isn't fair to her is you just going along with getting engaged and married just to get along. Be honest with her and, as importantly, with yourself. Maybe that means ending it. Maybe that means you need time. If you are honest with her, it is entirely possible that she can change her behavior in ways that make you feel less stifled and is still true to who she is. Not telling her how you feel is the only way to guarantee heartbreak in this situation.

My SO and I had a fair number of those difficult conversations early on in our relationship and worked it out. Neither of us feel like the other is cramping our style, yet we both still feel like we are who we are and love each other for it. It's still working for us after almost 19 years and hopefully will continue for another 19.

Even if telling her what you need and listening to her tell you what she needs leads to you two breaking up, it's good practice. You shouldn't be marrying anyone unless you can have those kind of conversations. Be open to whatever the results are, and if you still aren't feeling it, then you'll know that you made the right decision, whatever it is in the end.

In my mind the immediate breakup and engagement are both the wrong decision for you and are unfair to her. (and you!) Communicate or you'll find yourself in the same place again and again in your life.
posted by wierdo at 10:22 PM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I agree, you're doing nothing wrong by breaking up. That's why you're not married yet, and thank God you don't have kids. You do not owe her the equivalent of a divorce settlement or alimony. This is in fact why you live together before getting married -- to really discover whether or not you want to commit forever.
She will feel like her guts are being ripped out for a while, and then she'll move on and find someone who really wants her and be happier. And so will you. Be kind, make sure she has a place to move to before she leaves, even help her look for a place (probably with a roommate). Do NOT worry about anything like the trip expenses or anything else on that level. You would have spent the money on the trip whether or not you took it, it would be just as spent or "wasted" either way. Just break up and let the money worries go; keep your eye on the big picture. You sound like a considerate and perhaps ruminative person who is in a lot of pain over this. It will get better.
posted by flourpot at 4:59 AM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

She can't stifle you . She can't kill your joyful spirit. Your inner life and how you express it or not is all on you. That is not her responsibility. It is yours.

When you blame her for that, it is a sign of your lack of accountability. That's yours too, not hers.

This is OK in (some people's) theory, but I'd hate the OP to second guess himself, which he seems to be doing a whole lot already. You can have a purely individualistic ideology about personal accountability for emotions (I don't believe this, but some do) but in experience, of course your partner can stifle your joyful spirit. Time after time of not being heard or understood, or being subtly dismissed, or made to feel ridiculous in some way, makes one feel very different about expressing and sharing joy than the opposite, and causes joy to tamp down rather than expand. I think we've all been there with some people who for whatever reason try (even unconsciously) to keep us down, and I wonder if the OP were a woman saying that an overbearing man were stifling her whether we'd be as harsh. Note: I'm a woman and a feminist.
posted by flourpot at 9:14 AM on November 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

Flourpot, for sure repeated negative or derogatory response can lead someone to be inhibited. In that case, it's a bad relationship, and get out; you don't have to participate in someone's attempts to squash you.

However, the OP doesn't make any mention of her being overbearing or critical.
posted by Sublimity at 10:02 AM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Update from the anonymous OP:
Thank you everyone for the sound advice. I know that I am no hero by sticking out the relationship this long and trying to make it work. I made the post on an evening when I was feeling particularly negative about the relationship, a phase I semi-regularly go through. I was feeling a bit better about the relationship the following morning but my general sentiments remain the same. I thought a lot about it and decided it best that we break up. I'm also very good at convincing myself it's time to break up, so this wasn't that difficult.

To clarify on her "stifling my spirt:" I really love to sing and dance and whistle and be goofy. The most I get from her is a giggle whereas most often I get a roll of the eyes and firm stop, even when in the privacy of our home. Other justifications for me breaking up (more for me than for you): She doesn't has the ability to admit she's wrong. She tends to treat me like a toddler. If I'm sick but not actively dying it feels an inconvenience to her and she doesn't make me feel taken care of. She actively dislikes my family and has caused a rift in between us. She isn't open to trying new things whereas I'm very adventurous and like to do so. I have a deep fascination with learning about how things work but she would rather not waste the space in her brain. She doesn't encourage spending time with friends and my friendships have suffered because of it. I know no one is perfect, and these are things we can work through, but I also know that I should be more excited about a relationship if I'm planning to get married.

I had the conversation with her this morning. It broke both of our hearts. I used the breakup guidelines here from Metafilter but of course she didn't take it lightly, nor did she believe me or think I was being real, seeing as I've taken her through this before. She really wanted rational reasons as to why this wasn't working for me and what exactly I thought I would find in another partner that she couldn't provide. We had a bit of back and forth and I did my best to give her closure and my thought process without having a debate, seeing as my mind was made up. I know relationships are work but why should I go into marriage with the thinking that I have a couple years in between marriage and children to decide if it's actually working...

The question is now what? I've been here once before in May when we last broke up but her continued bombardment of rational thinking and reasoning and tears and confessions of love led us to getting back together. I know that I'll be getting a lot more of the same this time and I worry about my resolve to resist. I really do love her and she truly is a catch, I just know in my heart that this isn't right. I know the best plan is to move in with a friend until we figure out a different living situation as tempting as it is to move into the 2nd bedroom of our apartment. I'll be contacting friends to see who might host me.

Any other tips for keeping my resolve as I go through this breakup and untangle our lives together? Any suggestions as to how much time we should take before trying to hash out these details?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:03 AM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm very sympathetic to you OP and I think you're doing the right thing, but you are now in the zone where you have to own one simple fact: she cannot MAKE you take her back. If you take her back, it is 100% on you.

Here is how you get through this: make it simple. "We are not getting back together." It doesn't matter what she says, it doesn't matter what 'rational' arguments she presents- YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ENGAGE WITH THE ARGUMENTS. If she lays out a whole list of questions and insists that you have to answer them to her liking or else you 'can't' dump her, just refuse. "There's no point to having this conversation. We're not getting back together."

One more thing: her arguments may sound rational and she may believe that they are rational, but they are not. Dressing up sadness about the end of a relationship in nitpicky demands for exact quantifiable justifications for the breakup is irrational behavior on her part, because doing so cannot fix the relationship, because the relationship is over.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:33 AM on November 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

Why don't you show her this thread?

I know what you mean about finding it hard to keep your resolve. You either have to do an action that will make her want to breakup with you (e.g. telling some of your friends you're breaking up, showing her this thread) or doing things from afar, where you will not be influenced into going back (e.g. move out and communicate by phone for a day or two if meeting in person makes your resolve cave)

The first option is a bit passive-aggressive (I admit I've lied to someone and said I'm in a new relationship just to not have my resolve cave), the second option seems to be what you're doing. Good luck. Remind yourself frequently that there is no wiggle room, not even staying together for a week longer. Make plans for after the breakup.
posted by kinoeye at 10:39 AM on November 27, 2016

To stick with the relationship being over, when she tries to engage you with arguments, recall that the relationship is over because one of you has decided to end it. That means that you now no longer have conversations with each other about the relationship. There is no filibuster or veto option here, one person gets to end any relationship. She doesn't have to agree.
posted by ewok_academy at 2:48 PM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm really not a fan of the "talk someone out of their decision to break up with you" tactic, particularly as something done persistently over multiple days repeatedly not taking no for an answer -- to me it feels like the person doing that is essentially telling you that they don't care if you're happy in the relationship because it was fulfilling their needs so well, and they'd like you to go on pretending you're fine for their benefit.

There aren't really any valid rational arguments to be made by someone else about your emotions -- and insisting you won't find anyone who does meet your needs so you have to stay together seems manipulative at best (and at worst, could be meant as a way to erode at your self esteem or confidence in your own judgement).

It's 100% your right to end a relationship unilaterally, you don't need to build a case and convince her and get her onboard. My recommendation is to try to get whatever physical space/time away from the guilt trips you need to be able to notice your own feelings about being out of the relationship (relief is probably a big one) and focus on those to bolster your resolve.
posted by space snail at 7:01 PM on November 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

By the way, OP, you don't need to rationalize to her about your reasons. It's not a courtroom, and you don't have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you should break up, as though if you don't, the relationship doesn't end. It's already done.

I second the recommendations about not listening to her requests for an explanation (beyond a simple, "This relationship isn't right for me, and it isn't fair to either of us for me to continue. I struggled a lot with this decision, but in the end, it's the right one"). It would actually not be a terrible idea to make some requirements of your own, such as a week or two of no contact so that each of you has time to process. For one, it would give you both some needed space to make your own plans, and for two, it would give you, OP, practice in telling what you've decided, not asking. Declaring your intentions without allowing room for discussion is something you do, in fact, get to do--and it's a valuable skill for people who are used to letting themselves be railroaded in order to avoid conflict.

Remember that you are not deciding for her, but that your decision necessarily impacts her. That is a subtle but important distinction. Imagine if the situation were reversed, and you unilaterally decided that the two of you were going to get married, and you went ahead and bought a ring and asked her father for permission, even though she had reservations and even tried to break up with you. Doesn't that sound like an unhealthy dynamic? One person can't just decide for another that the two of you are going to be together for life. Both people need to agree on that. If one person doesn't agree, then it doesn't happen.

This is that situation, the only difference is that the person being overruled is you. It's time for you to make your own voice heard, and in this kind of scene, the best way to do that is to be kind but implacable. This is your decision, it is final, it is an established fact. Then proceed on the basis of that fact and figure out the logistics.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:01 PM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I will add, though, that this is a perfect example of why the subtextual narrative of women dragging unwilling men to the altar, to be miserable forevermore, is really damaging to both genders. It reinforces the idea that it's normal for a man to be unhappily married, and that it's the woman's fault because she "made" him marry her, so he spends the rest of his life fishing/at the bar/in the garage, avoiding his wife and complaining about the ol' ball and chain. That's not how any of this works. If one cannot stand up for oneself in a decision as fundamental as deciding one's own life partner, then one has no business planning a marriage. It's as easy as not buying a ring and not asking someone to marry you--especially in a culture that dictates that the woman must wait to be asked (and there really isn't a culture on this planet where that isn't the norm, even if a handful of individuals do it differently). There's no excuse for perpetuating the narrative that marriage is something that "just happens" to men, as though they were walking down the street minding their own business, and screech CRASH now there's a ring on their finger. Take responsibility for your own choices.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:25 PM on November 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

In my case:
"I'm afraid there is no appeals to the jury on this. It is what it is, a decision to end a relationship that I feel needs to be ended. Please respect that a lot of thought has gone into this decision and not all of the emotions I feel about it can be expressed as though we are in a courtroom"
"I hear that you have lots of reasons to continue the relationship, but I don't share those and don't feel at this point that I need to litigate the decision with you"
"Feeling railroaded by my partner is one of the reasons I have ended this relationship. It does not make sense to endure being further railroaded as we end it"

and when really frustrated
"you are hurting I know, but litigating, prompting, cross-examining me in order to make me reconsider is not working, nor will it work at anything except making me angry at being talked at, dominated and dismissed. It is not achieving what you think it might achieve"

Avoid the gut punch of tears and sexual approaches by reminding yourself how far you've come to get to this point, and how hard it will be to do it all again in a few months.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:36 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think showing her this thread would make it so you don't get back together. I'm not sure what you're exactly telling her when you break up, but if it was as clear and blunt as your question and follow-up then she probably wouldn't keep trying to convince you not to leave. If you are padding the truth at all, that is why she keeps objecting rationally--because she's missing some information.
posted by Polychrome at 4:36 AM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Any suggestions as to how much time we should take before trying to hash out these details?

Hey, me and an ex-partner went though something similar to this a few years ago. We're good friends now, with happy new relationships. I'll give you our timetable in case it helps.

- Week 1: begin conversations about breaking up. he moved in with friends, I stayed in the flat he would ultimately be keeping. I took two weeks to grieve and isolate myself before starting to look for a new place. That time was extremely valuable.
- Week 3: he began gently reminding me to sort something out, and I started looking. We began to discuss who would keep what stuff (furniture, books, our pet, etc)
- Week 5: I moved out, taking most of my stuff
- Week 7: I collected the remaining stuff and our pet, having unpacked and organised my new place a bit to make room
- 2 months after moving: I went round to collect my post, and stayed for one cup of tea, that was the maximum that felt ok at that time
- 1 year after moving: we started occasionally emailing each other socially again and attending the same social events

YMMV, but this is what we did and this worked well for me.
posted by greenish at 6:27 AM on November 28, 2016

Any other tips for keeping my resolve as I go through this breakup and untangle our lives together?

Just do it. Don't "go through" a breakup with her; you already know that you can't trust yourself to stick to a decision and particularly this decision when you get into long conversations about it. You had the conversation; you're broken up. You have moved on to the dismal stage of living with an ex until one of you moves out. That is the only thing to untangle besides choosing which dog you each keep, which should take all of a few minutes to talk about. The breakup has happened and you are through it. This is exactly as true as you choose to believe it is.

oh yeah one more: "I really do love her and she truly is a catch" please god tell me you aren't telling her this anymore, either appended as an afterthought to that terrific list of her faults and inferiority to you, or just on its own whenever she starts crying. It is downright cruel to tell someone that they suck and you're leaving them but p.s., you love them and they're great. don't tell her you love her as you break up with her, it is an awful thing to do to somebody. no fucking wonder she thinks that she can just be rational and systematic and get you back. She is deluded but you are feeding it by choice.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:09 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well done for having the courage to end a relationship. Plenty of people, I'm sure, coast along side by side their whole lives, in quiet misery.

I don't think anyone can tell you how, or what to say - you can't plan what comes out of your mouth in these situations, and you cannot factor in her reaction.

Don't try and speak for the relationship, or for what you think will benefit her - just tell her you don't feel right about this. Stick to your guns. The rest will all work out.
posted by NatalieWood at 3:15 AM on November 29, 2016

I feel for you, OP. I was with a good man who was nevertheless not the man I wanted to grow old with. Here's a tip that worked for me when I initiated the breakup of my marriage:

Write down some things on a post-it note. Things like:
- Reasons why you don't want to stay with her
- Reasons why you're firm in your decision
- Reasons why you're better off single right now
- 2 or 3 criteria for a relationship you DO want to be in that don't exist in this one
Keep the post-it note in your pocket.
Take out your post-it and look at it several times a day.
This is your rehearsal for any conversations with her.
It's also your mantra and your reminder of what you DO want.
This post-it keeps you focused on your goal.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:16 AM on November 29, 2016

« Older How do you set good long-term goals if your values...   |   Wordpress migration problems Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.