Is my relationship workable or is it better to end things?
January 14, 2022 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I did post a question before but I have since gathered my thoughts and want to post one more question. We are in our late twenties and got engaged in December, I wasn’t expecting him to propose at all. Since the proposal, for the first week I was thrilled, but since have been having doubts and concerned, however I always have a lot of anxiety in relationships. Does it seem like we continue with the engagement in marriage?

I (29F) am unsure if I should marry my fiancé (28M)?

We first met at 14 and dated at 15 for nine months. I broke up with him, regretted it, but he had moved on.

At 24, he messaged me on Facebook and we reconnected. Now I am 29, and we have been together for almost 5 years, with a six month break after the first year. We have been living together for 3 years.

After high school, he went away to university and lived in the dorms, which his wealthy parents paid for. He changed his major a lot and after several years failed out of university. Some time in there he also started smoking pot. He moved in with roommates and worked restaurant/retail-type jobs. At 24, he decided to move back to our hometown, back to his parents house, and start culinary school at community college, because he didn’t like that he wasn’t going anywhere in the uni town and wanted to finish a degree. That’s when he messaged me, after almost a decade of not talking.

We talked, met up, it was awesome. I soon went to his place in his college town. His place was a filthy mess, decorated with toys and posters of semi-nude women. His car was also a mess. It bothered me a little that he didn’t bother cleaning up anything for me. He was very sweet, cute, charming. But I noticed a tendency to play the victim, he had a lot of sob stories about his past romantic fails and pouted that no one wanted to be with him. He complained about having responsibilities and said he wished he was a kid. But I also found him comforting in some way, so familiar, he was my first love, and meeting again was amazing.

After high school, I went to community college, lived with my dad, and worked. Graduated 2014. I finally moved out of my dad’s at 24, in April 2017. A month before I moved out into my own apartment, is when he messaged me.

We started dating in May 2017. I noticed debt collectors calling him all the time. He had bought a pocket watch for hundreds and didn’t pay back the loan. He owed his old roommate rent money, but was buying weed and random stuff instead of paying it back. I also found out that he was hiding/lied about seeing a female friend and had been going hiking with her several times over months. He was also trying to move in with me in July 2017, complaining about how he hates living with his parents, how his basement room was tiny, and I felt he was hinting that he wanted to move in with me without paying his share, since he was in school. So after a year, I realized the red flags (my mom picked up on them and over time I realized she was right), got angry, and dumped him.

A few months after the break up he said he missed me. I said I missed him too but made the right decision. We started hanging out again, having sex. He had paid off his debts, started exercising, and lost weight. I started feeling attached to him again, and told him I wanted to be together again, but he wasn’t sure because he didn’t want me to leave him again. But a few months later we got back together, and then a couple months after that my lease was up, and we moved into a new place together in Feb. 2019 and have been here since.

We have been living together for 3 years. He finished culinary school and now has a catering manager job, where he does a lot of work and has a lot of responsibility, he gets up from 4-5am and is home around 2:30, has never missed a day of work, he makes a tad more than me, and we split bills in half.

Over these three years, there has been some areas of concern:

Chores:
He said from the beginning that he doesn’t want me having all the chores. It has ended up that I cook, do dishes, clean the house if I can, take out trash. I also work from home so I can do some things during the day. He does all laundry, cleans the litter boxes every week, makes the dog food every week or so, feeds cats. He used to offer to help with stuff, but then get upset/put out when I would accept the offer. Until I told him that bothered me. But he does keep saying he can help with cooking or cleaning if I ask. He sometimes helps with cooking prep. Maybe there isn’t any issues here but I do wish he might take initiative in doing things around the house, but he will do whatever I ask him to do.

Addiction/weed use:
Another thing that I don’t like is that he smokes weed allll day every single day and has been doing so for many years. He smokes from 5am before work, during work, after work. He says it helps him with his ADD related focus issues and anger. I got mad because after we got engaged I wondered how much of his money has been going to weed. I was about paying for a wedding. He said he spends $220-300 a month on weed. He doesn’t see any problem with smoking weed, says it doesn’t affect him much and that no one can tell when he’s high (I can’t unless he’s very high), most around him smoke it, but agreed that it was expensive and said he is cutting it back by half and has been progressing fast towards that.

Clingy friend:
Another problem I brought up after we got engaged was that his clingy friend was coming over about 5x a week to get stoned and game, sometimes while I work from home during the week. The friend will even get to our house at 6am on Saturday and Sunday and stay until around noon to get high and game. I was getting internally angry at this friend who barely pays any mind to me, but clings to fiancé, is always over getting high, and eating dinner with us sometimes (used to be often). He lives with his parents, but doesn’t like it, has enough saved to buy a house but is waiting. Fiancé did always ask before the friend came over and I never said no, until recently I told him it’s way too much and I said 3x a week is more acceptable. He’s been complying, after initially disagreeing there was an issue, he also said that he sometimes thought his friend was over too much and he wanted some time away, but that he gets bored without his friend. He said that having his friend over while I work from home is good because then he doesn’t bother me because he’s bored and I can work in peace. His friend also calls him several times a day, they talk hours a day, and fiancé will frequently be walking around the house with his friend in his ear (his friend may or may not be talking, and his friend will sing sillily or curse and scream up a storm over traffic/minor inconveniences), while having conversations with me, so I feel like he’s not giving me his undivided attention, and his friend is on the phone during tons of our conversations, a lot of times I don’t know that he’s on the phone so I am careful what I talk about.

Not interested in adult topics or future planning:
He also doesn’t have any interest in adulting things, no interest in personal finances. He doesn’t have any debt which is great, but little savings and no retirement. But he has a bad credit score (500 something) and his friend mentioned to him years ago how to improve it, but he’s made no efforts. He has nothing saved for retirement, when I talked about retirement with him, he said his work doesn’t offer a plan, he guesses he won’t retire. I told him he could sign up for his own plan. He doesn’t have any interest it seems. Never googled how to do anything like this. A month ago I signed us up for a personal finance course because I was freaking out about how we were going to be able to afford a wedding, new cars, etc. He has since been budgeting for the past couple of weeks and seems to be doing well with it now, which is great. Maybe it'll be okay? But I feel like, if I wasn’t worried about this stuff, we’d be living paycheck to paycheck unable to do anything. But maybe it’ll be fine now that he is budgeting and learning.

Anger issues/negativity/constant complaining:
He also has anger issues. He gets bad road rage, unless he’s high. He gets angry or anxious in crowds. I visited his work and there were dents in the fridges from when he punched them due to being angry, I believe because people ordered food shortly before close. He gets extremely mad at the neighbor who parks in front of our house and takes “my” spot, I don’t really mind though. One time the neighbor had parked in front of our house and as soon as we parked behind him and I got out of the car, fiancé was screaming extremely loud high pitched beating on the steering wheel extremely hard, it made me deeply uncomfortable. I’ve told him many times that I don’t like him showing that rage around me, so he hasn’t done it in a while, he says the weed helps him not be angry so that’s his reasoning to keep using at all waking hours. He seems to think it's not fair that he can't show anger around me. He is a sore loser. We were on a bowling league, and he would stamp his feet and get super pissed if he didn’t knock down all the pins he wanted. I told him it is embarrassing and makes everyone uncomfortable and he has gotten much better. He also complains all. The. Time. About so many things. His stories about his day are almost always just complaints about people, traffic, work, etc. It gets exhausting and I dread his calls while he's working honestly :/ he used to call me and just complain about traffic while driving and I couldn’t stand it. He says his friend and him rage and complain and vent together and that it helps them, he thinks I should listen to him.

He does have ambition in physical goals. He ran a half marathon every month last year. He is working out a lot this week. He wants to go on hikes this year.

He neglects to change his car oil, going on 9 months without a change, doesn’t go to the dentist ever, stuff like that.

Since I told him we don’t have strong hobbies and never really do much together, he’s been more proactive about trying to figure out fun things to do. Tomorrow he wants to cook me dinner and I said we can do a YouTube painting class. He also never really plans dates on his own, always asking me what I want to do each evening. I don’t plan them either much I guess.

Oh, about a year ago, I mentioned that I’d like to save for a house, he said I could do it mostly by myself, since I’m much better at saving and he’s not good at it. It feels like he thinks it would be acceptable for me to save for a house for us while he blows his money. But also we weren’t married or anything. So it was probably inappropriate to think he would say he’d save too.

Also, he used to ask me if I needed him, or wanted him. He’s asked a few times if I got along financially when I lived by myself for two years (it was very tight, but now I make more money). He said that he decided to propose when I lost my job last year and he offered to help financially but I didn’t need it, and never took anything and was jobless for 2 months, because it showed him I didn’t need him or depend on him I guess.

Over the past couple of weeks we have been having talks, sadly I got really angry because I was fed up with his friend always being at our house, the constant weed smoking, etc. I asked him what he sees for his future, at 40 or 50, what does he want to accomplish. He said he doesn’t know and seemed to think it was ridiculous for me to ask where he saw himself at 50. He said he isn’t good at thinking of the future. I asked if he wanted kids, he said maybe, but they are a lot of work and expensive, he doesn’t want to have kids if he can’t afford it. He has said he could go either way. He then said he would have 1, maybe two, and that he knew I wanted kids before he proposed because of comments I’ve made and how I act around kids. He said he proposed before we turned 30 so we could start working on goals etc.

I want marriage, kids, a good career (I work in supply chain), a house in the countryside, financial stability and security, and want to work on building more fulfilling hobbies and relationships.

In my fantasies I want a Man, who is mature, has principles, is driven and works hard, does the right thing, wants children and a wife, and someone who will be a great father to my children and teach them how to be strong, capable, moral adults.

Anyways, I DO love him. He has the sweetest smile, is so cute, he really has done so much to please me and change for me… and yet here I am still unhappy, and it makes me feel very very guilty and like I’ve made some big mistake. But maybe my problem is my thinking. I’ve been with 3 guys long term, and which each one of them my mind is telling me to leave. Will it ever tell me to stay?

I have some fun with him to, but other times I feel like I do try to avoid him, and get annoyed with him. I feel like he just doesn’t understand me or what I want out of life or even how I conceptualize the next decades of my life, he doesn’t think of that and has no concept of the future, it feels like. He has been sensing that I am pulling away and having doubts and has been on top of all his chores without prompting, telling me he loves me so much. offering to help with stuff, giving me hugs, etc. He had said that if we weren’t together, he would move back with his parents and find someone else like me.

I just want to make the best decision I can for myself on whether to marry him. He has improved A LOT since I met him five years ago, really fixing the things I told him he needed to fix, but it annoys me he didn’t see the need to fix before, like ignoring debt collectors, etc.. He says that I am the reason he wakes up and works everyday, but I want him to have bigger purposes in life than me. But, I feel I am being codependent trying to “help” and “fix” him, trying to mold him into my concept of an adult man. The better part of me just wants him to be who he wants to be, and he can learn whatever lessons in life he feels he wants to, and he deserves someone who will accept and love him as he is. Maybe someone who smokes weed and wants to game with him and his friend and doesn’t want kids would be better for him. However he has stated that with me he feels himself grow. That’s good but I’m not sure how much is growth if he’s only doing things that I tell him I need him to do so our relationship will function better. I don’t want to hurt him but also don’t want to hurt myself. I am 29 and time is ticking and I want a family in this next decade so I need to make some decisions.

I feel like I’m guiding him to adulthood. I feel like if I stopped trying to progress we would remain in mostly the same situation and not really move forward.

Are these things workable or are we better off separating?
posted by anon1129 to Human Relations (54 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: I want marriage, kids, a good career (I work in supply chain), a house in the countryside, financial stability and security, and want to work on building more fulfilling hobbies and relationships.

It doesn't sound like you're going to get it with this guy. I'm sorry.

He sounds like a pretty typical 28 year old dude who probably needs to be seeing a professional about his anxiety/anger/ADD instead of self-medicating with weed. He also sounds like he's willing to change and grow, which is commendable, but it's clearly not fast enough for you.

Don't sacrifice what you want in order to fix this guy. You already know it's a bad idea. Your question here sounds like you're asking permission to leave him, in which case: yes, you can leave him. It will hurt and it will feel like you're doing the wrong thing, but you're not. Let him find someone who is happy to coast along or take care of him. But that doesn't have to be you.
posted by fight or flight at 8:22 AM on January 14 [29 favorites]


Best answer: You know you should separate. That doesn't mean he's a monster or has no good quality, it doesn't negate his efforts to grow up, etc.

But seriously, don't saddle yourself with this kind of man at this stage in his life. He might be a great partner in five or ten years if he grows up and works on himself, but you can't afford to wait and wait on your goals, especially children. Also, the longer you live with someone you feel you have to manage and parent, the more it will eat away at the romantic/loving element and that means that even if he does grow up a lot, you'll have this parentified feeling to contend with.
posted by Frowner at 8:24 AM on January 14 [35 favorites]


The better part of me just wants him to be who he wants to be, and he can learn whatever lessons in life he feels he wants to, and he deserves someone who will accept and love him as he is. Maybe someone who smokes weed and wants to game with him and his friend and doesn’t want kids would be better for him.

I mean, yeah, he does. But also you deserve that too, a partner who wants the things you want, and is willing to do stuff to get those things.

Any relationship that results in this kind of wall of text, where the best you can say about him is that he's cute and hugs you sometimes, man, that shit ain't worth your one wild and precious life. This was an era of your life and it looks like it's ending. Endings are okay.

Look. I'm a million and a half years old and I've never managed to "settle down," or have a family, so maybe my take isn't the one you want. But I've been the person fantasizing that my (handsome, interesting, smart, funny, now ex) partner would one day become the kind of partner I actually needed. And frankly? My ex was the same way, always wishing I would be more this way or that way.

And now I'm with that partner that I actually needed. It's worlds different. And of course like any long-term couple we are occasionally annoyed by each other but I don't think we spend even an ounce of energy wishing the other one were a different person. And for that matter, something my current partner says all the time is how much he can't believe his luck, finding someone who doesn't want him to change. You should try for it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:29 AM on January 14 [17 favorites]


Assume he's not going to change and ask yourself if it's still worth it given that assumption. Some incredibly frustrating people are worth spending time with. Some aren't.

(Punching fridges and driving while high would be deal breakers for me. But, regularly changing one's car oil is something nobody I know has actually done in the last 50 years. So, we probably care about different things.) Sympathy and best wishes.
posted by eotvos at 8:33 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


(For what it's worth my partner and I also share a vision of the future--one that mostly involves hanging out and getting drunk with our weird friends. So if you're feeling any guilt about whether, like, your fiancé won't find someone compatible, rest assured, he absolutely can.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:33 AM on January 14 [17 favorites]


This seems like a laundry list of deal breakers to me-- as you yourself see them.
What is the point of staying in a relationship with this person? I ask that honestly. What does he have (aside from a ton of emotional regulation issues) that you can't get from other people?
posted by erattacorrige at 8:41 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]


The life you have with this person today is the same life you will have after you marry and have children. Is that what you want? If not, then no, this probably isn't workable.

One huge reason is that you aren't working on any goals together. It kind of sounds like you haven't had any real conversations about that, more that you are "fixing" him and waiting for him to grow up and be decisive AND decide to do things the way that you want to do them. That isn't how it works.
posted by sm1tten at 8:48 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Best answer: How is the friend with chores? It feels like he needs to move in with his friend.
posted by Dashy at 8:51 AM on January 14 [18 favorites]


He doesn't have to be a literal monster for you to end it. He can be a perfectly fine human being who has done nothing wrong and you can still decide "not for me." In fact, he can be cute and charming and fun and a good lay and a really valued close friend AND you can still determine that your futures aren't aligned. You don't have to add up everything and get a verdict on whether it is all bad enough to leave. This relationship isn't headed where you want to go, so leave.

When you are dating the in future, prioritize what you want from your life as criteria for a partner. Lots of men definitely want kids and a professional job and a house in the suburbs. Go find those guys.

As a side note, I have experienced the thing where a partner sees that you are pulling away and starts being "better" in small ways - picking up chores, making minor concessions. It doesn't last, and it doesn't sound like the change is meaningful enough to make you guys long-term compatible anyway.
posted by jeoc at 8:51 AM on January 14 [14 favorites]


Best answer: You’ve asked similar questions about this relationship previously, as recently as a few weeks ago. Gently, you have already received a lot of advice from well-meaning internet strangers about this guy and your engagement. Continuing the relationship and whether to proceed with marrying this guy is your decision to make. If you’re having trouble making this decision, your best option may be to seek counseling, either as an individual or a couple.
posted by sk932 at 9:08 AM on January 14 [28 favorites]


Your list of reasons not to get married is really long.

I can't speak to everyone's relationships but the period during which I was engaged, I never had any reasons not to get married - not even during a marriage preparation course run by his religion where other couples stormed out after fights.

Take that for what it's worth. Been married 27 years.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:10 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


I spent many many years thinking, “I can fix him/help him/change him if I just work hard enough.” I could not.

As has been said up thread, he can be a person you care for and want the best for — but that does not need to mean that you should marry him.

I remember your previous question. Please look out for yourself and close this chapter of your life and free yourself to find the person with whom you will build a marvelous life.
posted by profreader at 9:13 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Best answer: First off: door-punching is the end of the discussion. Get gone. If he'll proudly do it in circumstances where he could easily get fired, he'll do it to you and he'll do it to your children. It's abuse. He's abusive. Maybe not to you yet, but nevertheless.

That aside, he is not a good fit for you. That is reason enough to leave, because you are not likely to find someone who IS a GREAT fit for you if you are with this guy, and eventually you are going to keep asking these questions about him until you realize nothing is going to change and you leave.

Also, he is in NO way ready to be in a grown-up adult relationship, and you NEED to accept that as reality that is going to remain reality until he gets himself to that place. Wishing isn't going to fix him. Trying to fix him isn't going to fix him. Having a baby is not going to fix him. Him choosing and learning and doing the work to grow up is going to fix him, and frankly these baby-men don't do that if there's a woman around to change their diapers.

Before he grows up, if he ever does, he's probably going to have to bounce off several potential girlfriends who decline because he's a wall-punching DUI baby who only really steps up when he senses he's in trouble.

He's a fucking dipshit. Don't have relationships with children. Move on.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:13 AM on January 14 [41 favorites]


This boy is not the one for you. He has a lot of maturing to do before he's ready to be in a marriage. He's barely ready to be in a relationship. You're doing all the heavy lifting here, and he doesn't even recognize it.

Once you break up with him, you will feel a huge weight lift off your shoulders. Talk to a therapist if you feel like you need some support going through the breakup. But DTMFA!

If you need more reasons, go back through your Ask history, and ask yourself what you would tell someone who wrote what you wrote. You've been doubting this relationship for 5 years. It's not getting better. You owe it to yourself and any of your future children to give them and you a better man in their life. I know it feels hard, and it may feel like you'll never meet anyone else, but there's someone SO MUCH BETTER out there for you.
posted by hydra77 at 9:20 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Oh dear. I stayed in a relationship where I really loved the person but where it really didn't work. I stayed way too long. Love isn't enough.

In my fantasies I want a Man, who is mature, has principles, is driven and works hard, does the right thing, wants children and a wife, and someone who will be a great father to my children and teach them how to be strong, capable, moral adults.

This is totally reasonable. It's well past time to move on from this relationship. You can love someone but that doesn't make them right for you.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:23 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


This took me a long time to learn - people are who they are and rarely change that much. Don't marry him and expect him to change significantly because this is a fast track to disappointment and resentment. People can change IF they really want to but it's hard work. No amount of hoping, pleading, or wanting someone to change will matter if they aren't ready for the journey. Your description doesn't make it sound like you and your partner have the same short or long-term goals. Marriage won't magically change this, it just makes it harder to untangle your lives when you finally realize that the road you're on isn't leading to the future you want.

I firmly believe that someone can be an bad match for one person and an excellent match for another. A good relationship should bring out the best in both people. Find someone that inspires you to do better every day and who values the same hopes, dreams, goals and work ethic that you do.
posted by victoriab at 9:26 AM on January 14


I stopped reading at the point where he was smoking weed all the time.

I wouldn't marry a stoner and you shouldn't either.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:29 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


You asked exactly the same question just under a month ago. Has he undergone a massive change in his lifestyle, attitudes and aspirations since then? (I mean, presumably not, as the issues you raised then are the same ones you raise now). If not, then the many answers in that thread saying that you're just not really compatible, still stand.

Unfortunately, asking the same question twice is not going to turn up someone who has a magic trick that will suddenly make him into the person who would make you happy.
posted by penguin pie at 9:36 AM on January 14 [21 favorites]


Please go back and read this fabulous response from your previous question. It really should resonate with you. You can love this man all you want, and think he's cute and sweet and does the laundry, but he's not a good long-term partner. That makes it ok to break up with him. You deserve better! If you don't do this for yourself, do it for your future children.
posted by hydra77 at 9:58 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Life is too precious and short for you to spend one more minute of it writing more words or thinking more thoughts about this dude. I mean this kindly: you wrote an entire chapter about the reasons this man isn't right for you here. You aren't a bad person, this just isn't a good relationship for you and you know it. It doesn't sound like you feel like you guys are partners. Marriage is about being partners; that's the whole thing. The relationship you are in now will likely be the relationship you always have with your fiance.

You know what you want, and you know that you will not find it here. You might also not find it elsewhere -- life has no guarantees. I am 40 years old and unmarried but in a happy, good, supportive relationship now finally for the first time in my life. Prior to this I was in multiple relationships almost exactly like yours. Every minute I was with those people was a minute that I wasn't spending on loving myself. Life is too precious and too short for that.

A final note: the fact that he is punching in doors at work and beeping and yelling at the neighbors is more than a red flag. I dated one abusive man, and this is the kind of shit that he did earlier in the relationship, before he started hitting me. I really think that you should develop a safety plan and figure out a good way to extricate yourself from this situation. I know you probably don't think that he would hurt you, but these details were incredibly disturbing to me as a survivor of domestic violence. My ex did exactly both of those things, and they were both harbingers of things worse to come for me.
posted by twelve cent archie at 9:59 AM on January 14 [12 favorites]


You should not marry someone hoping you can turn them into someone else. Your best case scenario here is that your own plans and wishes get delayed for years on end while he changes nearly every aspect of his personality and all of his own plans, and then maybe at that point you can start building the life you want together.

Love is a lot but it’s not everything, and if you do not want to build a life with him *exactly as he is now*, then you shouldn’t.
posted by Stacey at 9:59 AM on January 14


You ended your last question with

I’m scared to face a painful reality.

And I think that's exactly right. From this internet stranger's perspective, it is 100% crystal clear you shouldn't marry this guy. Moving on will be scary and painful, but you can do it.
posted by counterfeitfake at 10:18 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: When he raged in the car, he was just pissed that he didn’t get the ideal spot and at the neighbor for being inconsiderate, he was in the car alone, I don’t think neighbors were around, but he was beating the steering wheel, screaming scarily, no beeping. He apologized when he saw that I was freaked out, I felt a pit in my stomach and deeply disturbed.

When I think of breaking up with him, I do get scared… I remember when I told him that his credit score will cause him problems years ago, he grabbed his lighter, and acted like he was going to hold it to my arm? It was a really weird moment and I kinda acted like it didn’t happen? I question my memory. Also shortly after we moved in he was mad at the cat and fling it and the cat was making some very distressed noises (she is anxious) and scared the crap out of my cats and me, he had a bloody knick on his face. Nothing violent has happened in a while, can’t remember.

The instances are few and far between. He tries not to get angry around me. If we break up I feel it would make more sense for me to stay in the house since all bills are in my name and almost all furniture is mine. The lease is up in May. I think I am going to plan an exit strategy. He said before something about moving back to his parents. Idk.
posted by anon1129 at 10:20 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Personally I think you should also move out in case that "few and far between" becomes more imminent.
posted by sm1tten at 10:31 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Hi, I am a domestic violence survivor and if you would like help planning please message me. Even if it’s not an immediate exit strategy.
posted by corb at 10:36 AM on January 14 [14 favorites]


It's just a parking space. It's not worth that amount of rage. Please take care of yourself.
posted by Orkney Vole at 10:47 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Can I ask, with all gentleness and care intended, what asking these questions gives you?

One of my most important relationships was with a person who was a very good person, but just not right for me. He had a low libido, he didn’t pay compliments or make romantic gestures, he didn’t talk about feelings. I was a howl of agony trying to figure out whether it was ok for me to want a partner who wanted me, complimented me, told me how he felt - how could I reject my current partner when I loved him so much, and knew that he loved me? I tried to figure it all out in my head - what could I do better that would make him want to be romantic with me? How could I ask for what I wanted without being entitled or nagging?

After literal decades of struggling with this relationship and what it meant and how I can heal and grow from it, I am able to see much more clearly how *I* was negating *both him and my self* by doing these things. I felt like I “deserved better” because I was showing affection for him, making romantic gestures to him, paying my own way, not complaining about chores, etc. But I felt like he deserved *my* love, because he loved me. I listened to an episode of Esther Perel’s awesome couples-therapy podcast recently that had an amazing quote:

“Deserving is the entitlement of the deprived. Deprived people don’t just say, I want something, it’s ok - they need to DESERVE it in order to muster the energy to allow themselves to do it. So it becomes a kind of dialogue with the deprivation: how much have I given OF myself to now feel like it’s ok to give this TO myself?”

From the outside, I wonder if asking these questions - and answering in defense of your partner - gives you ways to feel both like you deserve more (from him, or in another relationship) and that he is deserving (of you not leaving, of your continued love). That was certainly something I struggled with in that past relationship.

What would happen if you just focused on what you want and what he wants? You both are humans with inherent dignity and value in the world: what you do in a relationship doesn’t make you more or less deserving of love**. If what you want is not what he wants, or what he wants is not what you want, that doesn’t mean that either of your wants are unreasonable. Wanting something is reason enough to go after it.

**Quick note that I’m not excusing abuse here - trying to reinforce the idea that a partner doesn’t need to Do Bad Things for us to judge them Bad so we have permission to leave. I see a lot of people in difficult relationships not just looking for permission to leave, but for a jury vote that they DESERVE to leave, that they are CORRECT to leave, that the partner SHOULD BE left. Reinforcement from other people can be helpful in identifying abuse! But red flags don’t have to be harbingers of abuse for us to leave - they can just be behaviors or attitudes we don’t want in a partner.

Wishing you luck.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:17 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Best answer: Just in case you don't know: there are lots of people in the world that never ever do those things. There are lots of people in the world who occasionally get extremely angry about actual important things and...go for a vigorous walk. Cry. Write an impassioned Letter To The Editor. Run for school board. Wash dishes and grumble swears at them. Do Lego with intensity. Eat an unwise number of pizza rolls before they cool down enough while watching a comfort movie. They don't hurt anybody or anything, they try very hard not to scare anybody, they make sure their steam vents in a safe and uninhabited direction.

There's also people in the world who, when asked where they want to be at 40 or 50, will be very excited to show you their spreadsheet all about it. People who want to live the same lifestyle as you, parent the same way you do, have the same goals for money and accomplishments. Go find one of them! Doesn't that sound SO much nicer than what you're dealing with now??

Your entire attitude about this guy - oh well he's only occasionally dangerous, and he's not really invested in the relationship, but he can be really charming - is hauling a giant invisible trailer of and I don't deserve any better than that, I should be grateful that this mediocre specimen wastes his time on me, I'll just hold up the entire relationship myself because at least he's here. I promise the scary part of fixing your shit so you believe you can and should do better is a thousand percent less effort than the day-to-day life of a person attached to one of these guys, ESPECIALLY once you procreate.

There is a path for you out of this, it will involve healing some childhood trauma and repairing your relationship with yourself, but it is doable and you can then have the life you actually want.

Please see the legendary AskMe comment about poop milkshakes. Strive for less poop in your milkshakes.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:17 AM on January 14 [19 favorites]


Best answer: Oh wait what I'm sorry he THREW YOUR CAT? Gimme his address I just wanna talk.

This dude fucking SUCKS, he's a NIGHTMARE ASSHOLE, LAUNCH HIM INTO THE SUN. Have two huge dude friends waiting when you kick him out of your house and life and ideally the PLANET forever.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:24 AM on January 14 [37 favorites]


Best answer: I feel like I should also chip in my occasional AskMe-relationship-questions-PSA, which is that being a single woman isn't as terrible as the world wants you believe it is. And it's definitely better than being with a man who throws your cat across the room and 'pretends' he's going to burn you with a lighter.

A lot of the AskMes here that are obvious DTMFAs to everyone except the OP, have a strong undercurrent of "But what if I leave him and never find anyone else and become the worst possible thing in the entire world, a long-term single woman, and I will have Failed At Life."

And yeah, there are many great things about being in a relationship that single people miss out on. But it's also not the kind of mark of the beast that so many movie plots would have you believe.

Realistically, chances are that if (when, hopefully) you leave him, you'll take a while to regain your footing and then meet someone much better for you. But if you don't, it's honestly not the end of the world. The amount of mental effort you're putting into coping with this guy (and his friend!) and trying to persuade yourself you're happy with the situation, will be lifted from your shoulders forever and you'll be able to live exactly the way you want to, for the rest of your life. It's not a terrible outcome to be feared.
posted by penguin pie at 11:38 AM on January 14 [41 favorites]


Yeah, no, forget my earlier answer, please make a plan with a friend or a domestic violence hotline to get you and your cat out of this relationship as quickly and safely as possible.
posted by Stacey at 11:45 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


I posted this on one of your previous questions about this guy, in 2018, and I still stand by it:

"...wasting years with a guy who's sorta right but not really is a very typical way many women find themselves older, wanting marriage, wanting a child, not having a great partner and feeling like they got on the wrong path somewhere years ago. You're doing yourself a major service by having these realizations now. Move on."

You broke up with him back then...but you got back together and now here you are. This guy has never been the right guy for you. It's about time for you to realize it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:53 AM on January 14 [18 favorites]


Well, you're almost halfway to making this answer come true.

You've been asking this same question here for years, to the point that I start to wonder if you're trolling us. What answer do you think you'll get this time that you didn't get the last several times?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:13 PM on January 14 [18 favorites]


just for perspective, i got engaged to my partner of ~5 years right before christmas. i have had zero doubts about his suitability as a future husband and am DELIGHTED to know i get to spend the rest of my life as his wife. he has his imperfections, but we communicate openly and often to make sure our life together is harmonious and happy.

along with others, i'm not sure what you're hoping to gain by asking this question so many times. folks here have been unequivocal in their telling you, based on your reported experience, that this will not end well and may actually become abusive.

you clearly have serious concerns about this person as a partner; i'm not sure what it will take to push you to do what you need to do, which is leave him and find the life you know you want. his anger being directed at you in the form of physical abuse? he's already injured your cat! i cannot imagine excusing this behavior for any reason from anyone i know, much less the person i've agreed to marry.
posted by hollisimo at 12:27 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Reading your update, I am concerned for you. I agree with the advice to get professional support from someone who's expert in domestic violence.

Given that you are financially stable and will be going forward (go you!) I would suggest that you throw money at anything you need to do to move out on a timeline that makes sense for your safety. Like rent a place for February, break the lease - whatever it is. Every dollar, even if it incurs a bit of interest, that will help you make this a clean break will pay back in the future.

I'm sorry you are going through this but man, a lighter and an injured animal + the rage is really, really not okay. This is not about lifestyle.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:45 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Abusing the cat would be an immediate and complete deal-breaker for me. Like, I would make him move out that same night.
posted by alex1965 at 12:47 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


I'm surprised you didn't stop 1/4 of the way through your laundry list of red flags and ask yourself why you would put up with all this in a life partner. I'd suggest a therapist to guide you through the painful process, but you know he's not the one for you. Good luck!
posted by Furnace of Doubt at 12:50 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Perhaps you would benefit from reading this book: Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Guide to Working Out Whether Your Relationship Can--and Should--be Saved by Lundy Bancroft.

I read the "Why Does He Do That"book by the same author. I left my relationship after recognizing that his behaviors were not safe for me or my kids. It's been tough. However, there's not been one day that I've regretted my decision to leave. Please listen to your gut, not your heart.
posted by skunk pig at 12:55 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I meant fiancé had a scratch on his nose, and up his arms, not the cat, but he did fling her in the hallway, and both my cats were petrified. This was almost 3 years ago.

I’m sorry, I don’t know why I keep asking these questions and asking you all to provide advice. I am going to make plans to leave him, safely. Thank you all for your help, immensely.

I am seeing a therapist.
posted by anon1129 at 12:58 PM on January 14 [39 favorites]


The MeFi Wiki There is Help page has a lot of listings for domestic violence and abuse hotlines. You may or may not feel like you're on that spectrum, but I think if you're in the area of "I am going to make plans to leave him, safely," then you're definitely within their remit and they'd be glad to share with you their expertise.
posted by penguin pie at 1:05 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I was married to someone I had no doubts about. After fifteen years together we realised that we had grown apart. We split, both have new partners.

He treats me, and treated me, exponentially better. And being single was STILL a better choice.

The rituals and signifiers of engagement etc do not make a relationship better. Men who say "I don't know where I would be without you" but who also ignore your attempts to help, who do not support you in turn, and who throw cats in anger are never going to get better within the relationship. He is dedicated to the bare minimum and will always lower it to whatever threshold where you still exist in his life.

My current partner is something of a stoner without the drugs - he can still tell you what his goals are, does housework (even when laid up with an injury), has never raged out or punched a thing in anger apart from bar fights in his alcoholic bartending years, doesn't much like pets who aren't working animals but treats mine with gentleness and care, loves and adores his friends and spends a few hours gaming with them but never at my expense, and actively enjoys time with me.

I promise you can do better than this.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:30 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


It sounds like you want different things and that while he is maturing, you are doing so faster. He may have unmedicated ADHD and/or other issues. You're doing an awful lot of emotional labor here. I understand that he's stepping up more, but it doesn't sound like it's fast enough.

I know because I married this man. We divorced, and ten years later, we reconnected on social media. At 40. he is vastly more responsible and adult than he was at 25. And now, he makes for a good friend, because I've moved on and so has he. I have no regrets. I think if you end the relationship, neither will you.
posted by This Is My Superhero Costume at 1:43 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


OP, please just re-read your previous questions (and the resulting responses). This question of yours has been answered over and over and over and over. It’s not going to change.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 2:21 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Best answer: You are afraid to leave him because you’re attached to him and being attached to another human being feels safer than not, because it is. You’ve been hurt, it’s all over the way you write, the way you apologize- you’ve been neglected, taken advantage of, disregarded. Probably by your primary caretakers, maybe even by everyone significant in your life. But I bet you there was one. There was one person- maybe a grandmother, since passed away. Maybe a kind teacher. Maybe a dear friend. There was one person, one time, who looked at you and said “you deserve the world” and really meant it. That person taught you what love is, and if you close your eyes and remember, you’ll feel it again. And you’ll know, this is not it.
posted by stockpuppet at 3:36 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


bluedaisy beat me in excerpting this
I want a Man, who is mature, has principles, is driven and works hard, does the right thing, wants children and a wife, and someone who will be a great father to my children and teach them how to be strong, capable, moral adults.
and that isn't this guy, so I'll draw your attention to this instead:
He had said that if we weren’t together, he would move back with his parents and find someone else like me.
He doesn't want to be an equal partner. He wants someone to look after him. Preferably someone he can have sex with, but that's secondary. I'm so glad you've made up your mind to go. Just because you love someone doesn't mean that you're right for each other. Be safe.
posted by kate4914 at 4:13 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Best answer: You sound like a kind, intelligent, generous and conscientious person who deserves the same in a partner. I am glad to hear that you are going to leave this trifling, unkind, lazy and thoughtless freeloader who has been so mean to you and your cats.

Prepare for him to guilt trip you into giving him more time. (Don't bother. Repeat after me: He can stay with his gamer friend!)

And if you ever, ever, ever doubt that you are doing the right thing, please visit the website of Jennifer Peepas, aka advice-giver extraordinaire Captain Awkward. Specifically, the archive of questions and answers regarding Darth Vader boyfriends/girlfriends/significant others, a term defined as:
A terrible boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other who psychically drains the life out of their partner, but who somehow retains a mystifying hold over the partner, possibly due to the partner wanting to see the good in the terrible boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other.
posted by virago at 8:24 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Darth Vader Partners… very interesting, actually I will say that when I am around him, I feel very very drained and tired most of the time, I don’t know why. I will literally want to go to bed, but then he’ll go to sleep, and I’m wide awake, I don’t know if it’s because of the thoughts I am having internally when he is around, wondering if he is the right guy, etc.. But he does talk in this childish kind of way, all innocent like, while doing messed up things in the past… there is something about this sweet manner about him that I do feel is deceptive.
posted by anon1129 at 9:48 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I really hope you do make him leave tonight, and for good. And that you do indeed seek therapy. Tbh this is kind of silly but in situations like yours it might help to ask yourself, "would such and such (your role model) put up with this behavior? I should treat myself as such and such would"-- for me honestly it's been my personal heroines I've used in that sentence. And if the sentence is, no, my personal heroines would not put up with any of this behavior, and I'm just as worthy as them so neither will I, then it's time for that other person to go.
But yeah I've had close relatives in relationships like yours and asked or sought advice again and again and received advice similarly to what's been given here and they've proceeded with those relationships in spite of that, and ultimately I've watched that alienate them from all other healthy relationships with themselves and others over time. Not a desirable life to live.
posted by erattacorrige at 11:17 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I’m sorry, I don’t know why I keep asking these questions and asking you all to provide advice.
I think you keep asking the same question because this is your way of processing. Leaving someone is hard, abusive or not (and I'm sorry to say, he is abusive, even if it doesn't feel like it. There are some bad red flags here that people have already mentioned). You're hoping for one last possibility, angle, thing you haven't considered, weird trick, exit turn where it's like, if you just do x, then everything magically changes and you get the life you want, he turns into the person and partner that you want, and you can avoid a breakup and having to go through the pain of starting anew. This stuff IS painful, for sure. But you're already in pain. And this is the devil you know (this relationship that is very unhappy and unfulfilling for you) vs. the devil you don't know (life without him, having to start anew).

In addition, as you're writing and asking the question again, new stuff comes up. Like punching the door and throwing your cat (JFC, that gives me the chills), holding the lighter to your arm, his anger issues, being a sore loser etc. That's all news to us, and there's a reason why you didn't bring that up before. So I'm wondering, what else will come up if you ask this question again (that's not encouragement to ask the question again, because you and everyone else knows that you'll get the same answer. However, I encourage you to do writing on your own. Writing can be incredibly healing and clarifying).

So I see you hanging on here for one last hope and being scared of breaking up and that's all totally ok and totally normal. You know what's scarier though? Actually getting married and trying to have a life with him. And btw, divorce is way more expensive than ending an engagement. If you want financial security, marrying him is not going to get you that; it's going to make things worse for you. It's totally normal to hope that things will get better, after all, you've seen him improve, so who's to say that won't continue? But who's to say that it will?

What happens so often in relationships that have missed red flags is that after the wedding, all bets are off. Now that you're "locked in" and you've been through the wedding, it is SO much easier for things to revert and get worse because it's that much harder to get out. Like I said, divorce is expensive. Plus there's the shame and stigma of divorce (which shouldn't exist IMHO). I wouldn't be surprised at all if things got worse after the wedding. And I don't want you to stick around to find out.

In addition to the subtext of maybe feeling like you won't be able to find anyone else, or deserve someone better, there's a subtext of "I feel like I'm asking too much or being too picky and I should be ok with the way things are because there ARE good things in this relationship." No relationship is 100% bad or 100% good all the time. But like everyone keeps saying, don't marry this guy and he's not right for you. You can't build a life on sweet, cute and charming.

Maybe it'll be okay? But I feel like, if I wasn’t worried about this stuff, we’d be living paycheck to paycheck unable to do anything. But maybe it’ll be fine now that he is budgeting and learning.
I see you trying to talk yourself into being ok with this relationship that is clearly not working for you. Please don't do that to yourself. Yes it's great that he's learning. But you can't marry someone based on their potential and/or your hope that things will continue to improve. Look at him as he is now. If your friend had a partner like yours, and she wanted financial stability, a house and kids, and asked you, "should I marry him?" what would you say?

Another subtext to your post is the thinking that if you explain to him enough how important something to you is, that he'll understand and change. But is that the life you want? Constantly explaining to him such basic things and being a mom to him?

Yet another subtext in your post is "Well I'm not perfect either so shouldn't I be grateful that someone loves and accepts me?" Look, you don't have to be perfect to be loved. Being complementary to each other, accomplishing more together than you would if you were single, being on the same page with each other, having a shared vision of a life together is what you need. Do you think you have any of those things right now?

here I am still unhappy, and it makes me feel very very guilty and like I’ve made some big mistake. But maybe my problem is my thinking. I’ve been with 3 guys long term, and which each one of them my mind is telling me to leave. Will it ever tell me to stay?
So now you think something is wrong with you/your thinking. Nothing is wrong with you or your thinking. I understand why you're feeling guilty - because he's done so much to change for you, you think that breaking up with him it would be a waste. You feel guilty because you're the bad guy - he's done all this work to change and ultimately it's not enough for you. It's ok that it isn't. He's not right for you. It's ok that it took that long to realize it. Please don't set yourself on fire to keep him warm.

You also feel bad that your very wise inner voice is telling you to leave, as if that's a signal that there's something wrong with you that you don't want to stay. I wish we wouldn't judge ourselves like this. There's nothing wrong with you, in fact it shows that your instincts are in excellent working order and for whatever reason (probably sociocultural pressures to have a man?) you don't believe that and there ARE things that are right about you. And thinking that something IS right with you is probably very foreign to you because of your abuse history. Anyway, the voice won't tell you to leave once you're with the right person AND you've done a lot of healing.

I just want to make the best decision I can for myself on whether to marry him.
You already know the best decision for yourself. If you need another internet stranger to tell you what you're already thinking here you go: The best decision for yourself is not to marry him.

I don’t want to hurt him but also don’t want to hurt myself.
YAAAS girl! That self-preservation instinct is strong - you don't want to hurt yourself. It's going to happen that you are going to hurt him - this is unavoidable. Breakups are hard. But he already has a plan - he's going to move back with his parents and find someone like you! He's going to be fine! You will not be if you stay with him! You will also be ok once you break up - my hope is that you feel like a huge weight has lifted and that you can breathe. Once I was in my own place after moving out of my ex's place (together for 5 years and had a kid, so I also wanted to stay for that reason, but even then that's not a good reason), I felt like I could breathe. I didn't even know that I needed that. Life is SO much better not living and being a relationship with him, and we co-parent pretty well together.

Anyway. Maybe the next question you'll ask is about breaking up safely, the logistics and all the emotions that are coming up and what's next. Or maybe not. Either way, we're rooting for you and here for you. Maybe all the above is moot since you've already decided you're going to leave (CONGRATS on choosing yourself btw), but I wanted to write it to you anyway.
posted by foxjacket at 11:00 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


Response by poster: Final update: I broke it off. He said that he really wants to be with me, he does not want it to end. That he may not know what he wants for his future, but he knows he wants me. But that he doesn’t want to waste my time. He was very calm and amicable, but very upset. I think he was perfectly happy. I feel bad that he tried so hard to change, only for it not to be enough for me, I should have never dated him again, and I wish that he wouldn’t have tried to change for me, and would have decided that someone should accept him for who he is.

He is going to move out by Monday. I feel really bad and kind of numb and blah. But also, my future feels more hopeful. I have a chance at achieving what I want, without a ton of unnecessary work, someday finding someone who I don’t want to change. I plan to take at least a year to figure out and focus on myself, and maybe even become okay with not finding someone to date, idk. I didn’t want to hurt him, he was very upset. But I think if he finds someone who accepts him for who he is, and loves him, perhaps takes care of him, he will be much happier rather than trying to please me when apparently nothing he did would please me :/.

I think I made the right decision for both of us. It feels terrible now, but time will heal us.
posted by anon1129 at 5:12 PM on January 15 [15 favorites]


Best answer: Congratulations. It’s natural to feel bad but it was definitely still the right thing to do. You will feel better about it.

I feel bad that he tried so hard to change, only for it not to be enough for me

But do not feel bad about this! Don’t feel bad about him putting the minimum amount of effort in to changing very, very slightly, changing just enough for you to not quite dump him, without actually changing any of that long, long list of reasons why you should not be with him.

But I think if he finds someone who accepts him for who he is, and loves him, perhaps takes care of him, he will be much happier rather than trying to please me when apparently nothing he did would please me :/.

Nothing he did would please you because he did nothing. Do not for a second think any of this was your fault, that you’re hard to please, or are demanding too much. He couldn’t even manage the bare minimum standards of being a decent partner and responsible adult. Someone who “takes care of him” will be a mother to this man-child, not a partner.

You have done the right thing and I wish you all the best for your new future.
posted by fabius at 6:17 AM on January 16 [7 favorites]


Congratulations!!! Biiig hug (if you want it). If I could I would take you out and do something fun so that we could celebrate your freedom and get your mind off things. I hope you do something nice or fun and whatever you want today and tomorrow and be kind and gentle with yourself.

Co-signed everything that fabius said.

Of course he doesn't want it to end. You took care of everything for him! I know the guilt and regret are strong for you right now but you're not perfect and you didn't know right away about dating him again, or wanting to him to find someone that accepts him. We all make mistakes; the important thing is to learn from them. And we don't want to keep making the same mistake (e.g. staying with the wrong person, picking the same type of person again). Breakups are hard, they may feel like failures, but really, they're hidden successes. Breakups should happen when they need to happen, and this is definitely one of those times. There is too much emphasis on romantic relationships as THE thing to strive for in life and it also assumes that everyone wants one (it's called amatonormativity). If you truly want to be in a relationship, fantastic! The problem with amatonormativity is that people then feel pressured to stay in relationships that aren't working or feel terrible about themselves for not being in one.

Re: him changing for you and it's not enough. Please be gentle with yourself about this. You don't want to be in a position in life where you're constantly approving someone's actions and life choices. That's not a partnership of equals. All this means is that you weren't the right people for each other, and it's fine that it took a while to realize that. He will find someone that just wants to game and smoke weed all day.

I have a chance at achieving what I want, without a ton of unnecessary work, someday finding someone who I don’t want to change.
YAAAS girl! Emphasis on "a ton of unnecessary work." A partner should ADD to our lives, not create more exhausting work.

It's totally normal that it feels terrible right now. That doesn't mean it was the wrong decision. Breaking up is always hard. You're absolutely right that time will heal. CONGRATS again on choosing you.
posted by foxjacket at 8:12 AM on January 16


Do not for a second think any of this was your fault, that you're hard to please, or are demanding too much. He couldn't even manage the bare minimum standards of being a decent partner and responsible adult.

I wish I could favorite the comment by fabius more than one time. I will add:

It's OK to want to be with someone who already agrees with you regarding the importance of planning for a home, children and retirement.

It's OK to want to be with someone who takes care of their own health and their personal belongings.

It's OK to want to be with someone who responds to professional and personal frustration in a way that isn't hurtful or scary to other living beings.

Those people are out there, if and when you are ready for another relationship.

In the meantime, be gentle with yourself, take the time to heal, talk to your therapist and to the people who love you. And come back here as often as you need to.

You've done a big, brave thing. And I'm sure I'm speaking for a lot of us when I say that I'm rooting for you.
posted by virago at 9:19 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


It took me a long time and a somewhat abusive marriage for me to learn to pay at least as much attention to someone's behavior as their words. He's showing you he's violent and not willing to control himself. It will get worse.

You deserve better.
posted by theora55 at 6:21 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


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