help me evolve?
September 8, 2006 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me adjust to rapidly changing circumstances.

I moved very recently. Part of the reason for this was that I had been living with my boyfriend, and it was increasingly clear that we needed some time apart. I moved so that I could have my own space and the two of us could spend a month to reevaluate our relationship. We have been together for 4 years, and in the past few months we have been hitting a lot of bumps. There has been a lot of hurt, and confusion in the past. Most recently a pulling away both emotionally and physically (on his part). Still, we both felt very strongly about one another and did not want to give up immediately. This month is meant to be time for us to weigh out the options, clear our heads and figure out if it is time to end it.

My question isn't really about the relationship, though. Although at this point I am not very optimistic, I know the breakup of a long term relationship advice question has been asked many times here, and if I find myself in need advice on that, I will just browse those threads.

The real issue is this: I did not tell my new roommates that the main reason I was moving was because I was in the process of (most likely) breaking up. I did once mention that my boyfriend and I are taking a month break, but it was in passing, and probably sounded pretty casual. The problem is, I find myself very confused and depresed about my life at the moment, but I think this whole situation is a lot of emotional shit to load on them first thing. I especially don't want to bring it up in this first month, since technically the boy and I haven't broken up yet. I want to get to know them and not just be the new girl wandering around the apartment eating ice-cream from a pint in sweats and bawling. I feel like if I end up breaking up with the boy, the urge to wallow, cry and bitch to these new guys will just grow.

Does anyone have advice for how to deal with this situation without being an emotional parasite/burden on the new roommates?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it depends what your relationship is with these new roomies. Are they just random people you found off craigslist, or do you have a pre-existing relationship with them, or an emotionally-open one where they tell you about their problems right off the bat, etc.

If you don't know them that well, I'd just be honest and say as way of warning, "Guys, I might be a bit of a mess in the next few weeks because I'm about to go through a messy break up." Just so they know you're not always this unhappy, emotionally fragile, etc. If they feel comfortable reaching out to you, they will.

However, I've definitely ruined roommate relations in the past when I took their initial polite inquiries into my reasons for being suddenly depressed as an excuse to make them my circumstantial bosom buddies. I came off as an unstable psycho, they came off as being uncaring. It caused strain, and I wouldn't make that mistake again. I'd recommend crying on the shoulders of your friends, family, etc, people who know you and love you unconditionally.

I say be honest to them with why you're upset, but I wouldn't go to them with your deepest fears/sadnesses right away.

Either way, keep your head up and things will work themselves out. What you're doing is brave, and will ultimately result in happier times. Good luck.
posted by np312 at 6:36 PM on September 8, 2006

Listen to np312: let them know that you'll be a little out of it for awhile but be vague.

Depression is common at the end of a relationship. A therapist can help you work through your pain privately. Writing your thoughts and feelings can help too.
posted by mynameismandab at 7:19 PM on September 8, 2006

I would suggest getting to know their problems now so that they don't feel like you're unloading on them later. If you're hanging out, ask them how they're doing. Ask them questions. Try to figure out what's going on in their life that they like to talk about. Establish their trust so that, when you feel like it's time to let go, you've already taken the relationship to the right level of comfort. Then if things go south for you in the future, you can rely on them a little more without feeling/appearing self-centered.

You won't be an emotional "parasite" if you're feeding the host. Good luck.
posted by one_bean at 8:03 PM on September 8, 2006

The suggestions above are all good.

If they're not receptive to genuinely making friends, that's difficult. Rely on your own existing support networks, and try to be considerate of them; then they'll be free to offer help when they feel comfortable.

But if they are receptive to genuinely making friends, in addition to just being housemates: DO things with them. Positive fun things outside the house that don't have to do with boyfriends or life's dark places. Go out dancing with the girls, or go to a pottery class with the artsy one, or go to the free outdoor Shakespeare one afternoon, or whatever your city has to offer. Have poker night once a week with them, start a garden in the back of the house, take an exercise class with one of them, or something.

Right now, build the beginnings of an independent life, to see what it's like. Think about the positive aspects of "time off" (or of being single): you get to take up new activities etc that you couldn't when you were with boyfriend (you were spending a lot of energy on that relationship, or maybe you like Asian food and he doesn't, or you are outgoing and he is shy, or vice versa, or whatever).

This will mean that if dark times come:
- you have a relationship with them that isn't based only on them consoling you; you'll have some private jokes with them, know them a bit better, have things to talk about other than the dark times, etc
- they will like you more, because they have seen the fun, engaged side of you -- so they'll have more patience with the sad, withdrawn side
- you will have a happier picture of what single life can be like (bonus points if you also have signed up for activities like exercise class that will keep you leaving the house even when you feel like just lying on the floor)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:47 PM on September 8, 2006 [2 favorites]

who are the people that you're close to? ... they're the ones you need to confide in
posted by pyramid termite at 9:01 PM on September 8, 2006

LobsterMitten offers excellent advice. But to go a little farther down that road, anon, you need to recognize that you can have some control of your emotional landscape, even in bad periods, by taking care of yourself, first. Basically, you truly can decide to be a train wreck, or to muddle through, and if don't decide consciously, you are defaulting to being a train wreck.

Self-esteem comes from finding out you can take care of yourself, not just when things are going well for you, but particularly when they aren't. If you can keep your job going, eat and sleep normally, and pursue good uses of the larger amounts of free time you may be having in the near future, without rushing out to find some silly rebound relationship, or spending undue time in bars, you will feel better about yourself, and the emotional lows you do inevitably feel will be somewhat counterbalanced and spread out over time. You'll still mourn the end of the relationship, but it will be in moments spread out over weeks, embedded in a greater fabric of self-realization and building life experience.

Being plucky is part attitude and part conscious decision; as silly as you might feel trying to buck up and be plucky in tough times, it is better than being an emotional vampire drama queen, at any time. And a person who bucks up, takes command of her fate, and works through tough times, even with help from therapists and perhaps medications, is far more attractive to new friends and healthy relationships, than one who depends on the kindness of strangers, old and new.
posted by paulsc at 10:17 AM on September 9, 2006

Anon, do you have other friends in your town? When things really become final, could you take a trip to see family or friends? I just hate to think of you having only brand-new roommates as your emotional support.

Also, I wouldn't think of yourself as an "emotional parasite." There's a limit, but below that limit I think people like helping other people. I like people who are vulnerable in front of me. Do you think your roommates have good boundaries? Will they send you clear signals if they're tired of listening?
posted by beatrice at 12:15 PM on September 9, 2006

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