Housemate romance coming to an end. How do I move on?
June 22, 2022 2:53 AM   Subscribe

My housemate and I ended up sleeping together a few weeks ago, and it morphed into a complicated but wonderful romance. Now she's suddenly moving out to go travelling, and ultimately back to her home country. How should I act, and how do I move on?

Housemate and I were always friendly but I'd never really thought of her that way before. But one night, she wants to show me some photos, and leans in close to me on the sofa, our legs touching; I put my arm around her and she puts her head on my shoulder. Try as we might to convince ourselves that "this is a terrible idea, isn't it?" we end up sleeping together - that night, and many more times over the coming weeks. Apparently she'd harbored feelings for me for months.

And it wasn't just sex - we'd spend whole days cuddling on the couch, watching TV, having meals together. She would say how brilliant I was, how good in bed, how attractive; how I'm a real catch. It was wonderful just spending time with her, understanding her better, hearing her tell her story.

I'm quite smitten in a way that hasn't happened in a long time and took me off guard. I was prepared to move out of the houseshare so I could pursue something with her, but she suddenly announced that she was quitting her job and going travelling for five months, after which she would be moving back to her home country (a long way away).

Her moving home wasn't a huge surprise - she took a year-long secondment abroad - but she's a dual national and could stay if she wanted. But her suddenly moving out five months early was a bit of a shock.

I suggested flying out and joining her for some of her travels, maybe even visiting her in [faraway home country], but she said no, that she "wants to be independent". Not that I want to tie her down with a relationship either; I've been in several non-monogamous arrangements in the past but she's said that's not something she can tolerate. Her travels will take her through my city, but she said she's not planning on visiting. Seems like, without a concrete future for us together, she doesn't want to draw things out.

Part of me is crazy about her, wants to write her a goodbye letter, get her a gift for her travels, eke the most out of these last few days together. But I'm hurt that she's breaking things off so abruptly, even if it is for something as exciting as international travel, and doing it so absolutely, seemingly with no chance of us ever seeing each other again.

How should I behave towards her in the last few days we have together to minimize hurt and regret? When she's gone, do I try and keep in touch or just try to forget? And how do I pick up the pieces when this is all over?
posted by osmond_nash to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your relationship is drastically changing, but that doesn't necessarily mean ending forever. This could be one chapter in a much larger story. That story may or may not include her.

I say this because we (humans) have a tendency to focus on the present moment and give huge weight to it. That's natural — it's all we know, all we can experience.

I'm going to get a bit cheesy and quote Brené Brown here: Don't shrink, don't puff up, just hold your sacred ground.

Which means, don't walk away, stonewall, or get avoidant (shrinking) and don't try to prove yourself or your love, convince her of something, lay ultimatums, or chase outcomes (puffing up). Try your best to stick to what you know to be true, what feels authentic and right for you. If you can find a way to stay present and hold this moment a bit more lightly, to detach a little (and respect her choices, autonomy), that might be enough of a perspective shift to both find a way to honor what this time has meant to you and to let go a little too.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:16 AM on June 22 [35 favorites]


I think you should feel grateful for a nice time together that (it sounds like) is helping her make some really big, difficult changes in her life. It sounds like she's feeling, for whatever reason, the itch to shake up her life. She acted on some feelings she harbored (maybe because she decided to leave), she's making the decision to move halfway across the world - there's a lot going on for her! That's big, difficult stuff, and she sweetened the process with some very nice time with you.

Yes, you two don't agree on when this relationship's end date should come, and that's hard. But wouldn't it be best for you to both feel like this has been a really positive experience? For you to remember the best parts of it? So, until she leaves, you can be extremely sweet. When she leaves, you can wish her well, let her know that you feel warmly to her and. that your door is open in the future and you hope she gets in touch or visits.
posted by entropone at 5:06 AM on June 22 [8 favorites]


Best answer: I think the best thing you can do here is treat this as a gift, even if it's a complicated one. You've gotten to experience a particularly intense sort of vulnerability and closeness, something that's going to inform your future relationship choices. Let it be what it is until it is over, and after that you can process and grieve. Keep a journal, maybe don't share your words at this time, but keep them in case you want them later.

Don't be surprised if you do go through stages of bargaining and anger - another reason to choose to be no-contact indefinitely, aside from her boundary-setting which should be respected as well.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:59 AM on June 22 [6 favorites]


Best answer: It sounds pretty clear that she's breaking off the relationship, so I would act accordingly over the next few days you have with her. If for your own emotional being, that means you need to pull back a bit - I'm not saying you should stonewall or avoid her, but you obviously don't need to keep having sex if it's too emotionally fraught for you right now. Some people can handle knowing a breakup date is fast approaching, and other people find it easier to end things once they become aware of that end point - only you can decide what is true for you.

A goodbye gift + a heartfelt letter seems fine as long as it's not laden with guilt/expectations for a future relationship, but rather explicitly about honoring the relationship you've already had. In terms of future contact, I see nothing wrong with emailing her in 6 months to a year to check in and see how she is doing. She may or may not respond, and if she doesn't respond, then I'd drop it.
posted by coffeecat at 7:02 AM on June 22 [4 favorites]


Best answer: It sounds like she genuinely enjoys your company, but knows she has other plans/goals/dreams that don't involve staying in your city. It was a bit selfish of her to start something up when she likely knew this from the get go but wanted to get involved with you anyway. Keep in mind that her knowing she was going to be going could be part of what made your time together so easy and enjoyable (although chemistry and new relationship energy can do that too).

Just be nice to her and try to be glad for her doing what makes her happy. It sounds like you already made attempts to continue things and she heard you, so I'd refrain from that from now on. Make some plans to hang out with friends or do things you really enjoy after she leaves, maybe re-paint or move things around in the house so you've got less reminders of your time together.
posted by lafemma at 7:13 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


ended up sleeping together
it morphed into
I'd never really thought of her that way before
we end up sleeping together
how brilliant I was, how good in bed, how attractive; how I'm a real catch.


I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but your question is a lot about you, and also worded quite a lot in the passive voice. It's clear this woman made you feel really good and boosted your ego, and it's so hard to give up that feeling. I get it. It's intoxicating to be wanted so much. I think you need to do two things here to overcome your anger and your hurt:

1. First, you need to take responsbility for things. You chose to do it. You chose this. I assume there was no upfront discussion of seriousness/potential heartbreak? Well, I really don't mean to be overly harsh, but...you kind of did that to yourself. Things didn't "just happen" either - you were an active participant.

2. You need to love her more. Not how she makes you feel, not all the nice things she said. Her. Alone. Who she is as a person. Really meditate on that and take yourself out of the equation as much as you can. It's good for the soul. Try to genuinely desire her happiness, on the level of someone who truly loves and admires someone else. Before she leaves, give her a few heartfelt compliments that are about her and her alone, on the level of the ones she gave you.
posted by stockpuppet at 7:35 AM on June 22 [7 favorites]


Best answer: Be kind, don’t act bitter, and remember this - life always changes, don’t spend too much time chasing the future or else you’ll miss the present. If you can, keep in touch. You don’t know what the future holds. I’m not saying the next few days/weeks/months will be easy, not at all, or that you should just “get over it.” But you know now that there’s not much you can do to change this situation. What you can do is work to steer things on your terms once she’s left. Keeping things amicable will avoid the memory of a bad breakup and let you remember the good. You are, after all, making your memories for the future during the present. Do your best to make those memories good for the both of you.
posted by azpenguin at 7:37 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]


For the rest of your time together, treat her like a princess. Remind her of all the happy times you two have spent together, shower her with love and affection, and let her know how much you enjoyed being with her. End things on a high, positive note.
You never know, her leaving to travel etc just might be sub-chapter of your lives. She might come back. Don't burn bridges.
posted by james33 at 7:45 AM on June 22 [4 favorites]


Best answer: I think she knew what she was doing all along. I think she had made her plans to travel and return to home country before she seduced you or you seduced each other. I think she never had any intentions of making this more than a last few weeks fling. I also think it turned out much better than she expected.

I would make the most of the last few days together, accept the situation for what it is, hope she changes her mind and does look you up, and rejoice in the few weeks of bliss. Then, move on. There are other fish in the sea.

If you want to write her a goodbye letter saying how much you enjoyed the last few weeks and hope she does look you up when passing thru, that would be nice.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:10 AM on June 22 [8 favorites]


Best answer: Somewhere I read that they way people end relationships sets up the way future relationships will be. Let things end in a way that will keep doors open for future relationships (including the same one). In a year or 5 years, how do you want your future self to tell the story of this relationship?

Be loving and supportive and thankful and let go.
posted by Locochona at 9:01 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


Best answer: There's no way to really know whether she struck up the affair with you because she knew was leaving (as JohnnyGunn suggests, and which is plausible), or in spite of that fact. If she is leaving because of her feelings for you or in spite of them. And you might not be able to get a straight answer out of her if you asked, because we can't always get to the root of our emotions with our rational minds.

So I would leave that alone, and like everyone else says, be happy that you had the experience you did have, don't focus on the fact that it's ending.
posted by adamrice at 9:30 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


Best answer: Agree with all the above about being gentle and kind about this. But, if you want to, make sure you get a moment of quiet to tell her that you absolutely want her to stay (assuming that's what you want). There's a non-zero chance she might change her mind if she thinks you're serious. Don't leave that on the table because of ambiguous statements, pride, or anything else.

(Source : t-shirt still in my wardrobe that i found ten years too late)
posted by tillsbury at 1:12 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]


I know it hurts now, but picture yourself years down the line looking back at this brief romance with fondness, perhaps you're still friendly and happy to catch up with each other now and then, maybe you've both settled down with others and have had all kinds of adventures. This is the realistic best case scenario, so, try to make that happen.

You've both had a good time, you've made clear you want to keep the relationship going, she's made clear that she does not, no one has done anything wrong, your only decision to make is whether you're going to leave things on good terms or not. I'd recommend the former.
posted by picardythird at 1:55 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


She's initiated something great, boosted your self-confidence, given you a new perspective on intimacy and is moving on in a way which sets her boundaries without diminishing you or making you feel guilty.

Whether she's ultimately The One or not, you've been given a valuable experience by a great role model. And if she isn't, I think she would be very happy to think of you being better able to give and receive what you need from your relationships in the future as a result of your time together.
posted by protorp at 2:37 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


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