Is it time I break up?
August 29, 2007 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Is it time to break up?

Please help me out with this one. I can't seem to decide for myself.

I have been together with this girl for 7 years and we lived in the same city for 3 years, then I moved out for work reasons for another 3, then we decided to move in together in the city I live now. All was well in the first 5 years, then in the 6th year we started having problems since we were living in opposite sides of the country, didn't get to see each other much, and the works.

I moved to another city and we decided she would move in with me. First two months everything was fine, but then boring routine kicked in, she's started having health problems (thyroid gland) that made her gain a bit of weight and sleep 15 hours a day. After some six months, she got well but now has other health issues with basically the same side effects. To keep a long story short, due to these problems we have had sex only twice in 12 months.

It also seems she got comfortable with the situation of not having to work (I have a good salary, but would appreciate some help here), stopped all the plans she had on getting professional certifications and a job quickly, got a new dog that starts barking at 6 AM, etc. etc. and of course etc.

She is a wonderful person who's supported me during some hard times, and I have tried to support her during her health problems as well, but one year of this is killing me. I feel angry, depressed and bored, however I'm afraid to break up because she has a history of depression and these health problems would likely to worsen if I did. I feel like I owe her more support because she was there for me when I needed it. She's already told me she thinks I don't love her and I'm only with her because I'm a good person who won't let my friends down in any situation.

But I'm tired of having to wake her up every day at noon, support endless health problems, the f*cking dog barking everyday, not having any sexual desire for her, not being able to convince her to get a job, etc.

For God's sake should I break up? Am I being a bad person in doing so? What if her health deteriorates? I don't know if I could stand if I knew something I did caused her to destroy her life.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Is she getting treatment for the thyroid issue? If not, why not?
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:08 AM on August 29, 2007

If "I'm afraid to break up because she has a history of depression and these health problems would likely to worsen if I did" is all you can come up with as a reason to stay, then you have your answer right there. Break up with her. You're not doing her any favors by pretending to be her boyfriend when all you are is a semi-roomate/semi-friend.

She can take medicine for that other stuff (depression, thyroid), but there's no medicine for lack-of-love.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:13 AM on August 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Honestly, it sounds like you know the answer. You want to break up with her. I doubt seriously you'll "destroy her life" in the long run, and chances are very good that she'll actually have a very irritating "break-up upgrade" into someone closer to who you want her to be. When that happens, keep moving. Old patterns are very hard to break. Just learn what you can and allow her to do the same. You'll both be better partners to others for it.
posted by pomegranate at 11:16 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

For God's sake should I break up?
Yes. Neither party sounds like they're in love, just going through the motions out of guilt and convenience.

Am I being a bad person in doing so?
Depends on who you ask, but you're not doing anyone a favour by continuing a cycle of co-dependence.

What if her health deteriorates?
You're a friend, not a husband or a nurse. All you can do is try and be supportive post-break up.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:17 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're not having a partnership. You're being her caretaker.

Your relationship as you describe it is about dependency and fear, turning to resentment. Not love. Not mutual support. Not delight in one other's company.

Yes, you should break up. No, you are not being a bad person.

Even if her health deteriorates, you get to choose how and how much you want to be involved in her scenario.

Here's a red flag: I don't know if I could stand if I knew something I did caused her to destroy her life.

You actually don't have that power. Only she has that power.

Stop focusing on her so much, and get some help for yourself. Your search keyword is codependency.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:17 AM on August 29, 2007

This lady sounds decidedly depressed, whether it's health issue induced or not.

You must have needed some almighty supporting at some point, to feel like you need to shoulder this load with no expectation of it ending. Otherwise, I think you're taking on more than your fair share of responsibility with this lady.

I'd sit her down and have a chat about it, explain that her not taking active steps to address her health and employment situations leaves you feeling on the hook, frustrated and taken advantage of. Suggest some active steps she can take to address the problem, and ask that she start taking some of those steps.

If she's unwilling to recognize that she needs to pull her socks up, then I'd suggest breaking up. You deserve more than this.
posted by LN at 11:19 AM on August 29, 2007

if I knew something I did caused her to destroy her life

This is a terrible reason to stay with someone. For one thing, control over her actions is entirely hers. She can use you as an excuse to do absolutely anything right this second - mall shooting spree, head-shaving, giving all her worldly possessions to the local animal shelter - but ultimately it is only an excuse. It will be her choice. It might also be her choice to revamp her life and go on to fabulous things. You don't get credit for that any more than a negative result.

If you don't want to stay, don't. If you want to tell her about the issues you are having and the choices you think you need to make in your own life right now, you can do that too.

It's terrible for someone's mental health to be with someone who's only sticking around because they think they have to. You're not doing her any favors except financial, and people have a way of taking care of themselves when they have to.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:22 AM on August 29, 2007

Response by poster: Echoing everyone else. If you have already maturely discussed your concerns with her dog, her unemployment and lack of motivation towards being employed, and her presumed unwillingness to take care of her health (if that is indeed what the weight gain is a symptom of), it's time to go.
posted by Anonymous at 11:25 AM on August 29, 2007

Don't break up with her. Not yet. You're talking about a bad year, here, and when you say that you feel like you owe it to her to support her through a bad time, I think that you're right. Relationships aren't just about feelings, they're also about commitment.

You shouldn't have to deal with this indefinitely, though, so: Therapy! Of course. For you. For her. She needs to deal with her health problems, you need to talk to her about how you don't want to be the only earner. She hasn't been this way forever, and probably won't stay this way forever. Keep that in mind.

OTOH, the after effects of breaking up are never as bad as you think they're going to be. She'd be fine. You would be too. And you'd both find love again. It's just that giving up after seven years is sad, and losing something you've had that long (so it must be worth something to you) based on one year seems wrong.
posted by hought20 at 11:26 AM on August 29, 2007 [6 favorites]

The big thing I'm picking up from your post is that you're building up a large dose of resentment towards her (angry, depressed, and bored would all be part of that). If you're feeling like you owe her something, that will add to it - and that will be made worse if she's using that feeling to keep you there.

If that resentment can't be worked out - i.e., a long, difficult conversation where everything gets put on the table, and plans are made by both people to improve the situation - than this could get very ugly before it ends.

I commend you for worrying about her health, but at the end of the day, remember this: your health matters too, and that includes living a life where you aren't feeling trapped. Try to have that discussion, if you haven't already. Consider counseling - that might help you find place to have the discussion without her feeling like she's being attacked. If you've done this and it isn't getting better, then it is probably time to pull the plug.

My wife and I have supported each other through some very rough patches that the other has had, and if it wasn't for the fact that we've been able to talk about these feelings of resentment at various points, I don't think we'd still be together.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:29 AM on August 29, 2007

I feel for you dude. You seem like a nice guy trying to do the morally right thing but as everyone above has said it is time to call this a day.

I hope it works out well in the long run for you both.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 11:32 AM on August 29, 2007

You should get a counselor and tell her in a quiet, calm atmosphere that you are worried that she has become someone other than the person you met seven years ago and that you want that person back. Give her the chance to do that. Give her the time to get back to work, to life. You might have to keep the dog though.
posted by parmanparman at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Time to have a long talk, man. Sucks, but it's gotta be done. Seven years is a lot of commitment, and you should at least give the ol' "I'm being honest— I'm resenting the hell out of you now," a try before just changin' the locks.

Might want to prevail upon her to lose the dog too. Got a friend that might take it?
posted by klangklangston at 11:41 AM on August 29, 2007

Yeah, about the dog.

How does her getting a dog that you apparently don't want fit in with her "getting comfortable" with your taking care of her? You talk about it like it's a logical extension, but I don't get it. Does she somehow get a pass on her obnoxious dog just because she's sick?

Did she discuss it with your prior? What happened when you told her you're having a problem with the dog's barking? ...You have told her, right?
posted by ottereroticist at 11:43 AM on August 29, 2007

People come up with all kinds of logical-sounding reasons to stay or to leaves. But here's the thing: a barking dog and not working and sleeping too much are totally beside the point.

The only question you should be asking is: "Do I want to be in this relationship?"

That's it. And you know the answer.

Of course, that doesn't mean that you aren't required to be human in breaking up with her: you've spent 7 years together. You need to be decent as you proceed. It's eminently possible to have a breakup that isn't a huge, heartbreaking trauma, and it starts with you being honest, but kind.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

As someone who has been in your position twice (yes, twice!) before, I am here to tell you that breaking up with her does not make you a bad person.
posted by turaho at 12:07 PM on August 29, 2007

I feel like I owe her
And yet nowhere in your post do you mention your love for her. If seven years in, you're not in love with your partner and having trouble imagining your life without her, it is time to move on.
posted by meerkatty at 12:13 PM on August 29, 2007

How does her getting a dog that you....

Forget the dog, the dog doesn't matter, the dog is just one more irritation on top of everything else. Maybe she got the dog and didn't ask, maybe she got the dog and didn't train it. It's not important.
posted by electroboy at 12:32 PM on August 29, 2007

you have no obligation, moral or otherwise, to stay in a relationship that does not make you happy, whatever the reason is.
posted by modernnomad at 12:36 PM on August 29, 2007

I agree with klangklangston. If you are fully checked out of this relationship and only staying out of a sense of obligation, then the expiration date is probably well past. But if where your heart is really at is that you wish you could have a real relationship with a participating partner (because this thing you are describing is surely not that) then you should consider communicating frankly with her how unsatisfied you are and figure out if she has any will to really change. My wife gave me a chance like that before we got married and I ended up doing five years of counseling that I really needed. People can change. But only you really know whether the thing is past that possibility or not.
posted by nanojath at 12:59 PM on August 29, 2007

seven years is a long time I'd give it another chance
posted by matteo at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you're afraid of two things:

1. Am I going to destroy her?
2. Am I a bad person for even wanting to leave?

Number 1. You can't destroy her -- you don't have that power. She's a grown-up, and it's her responsibility and privilege to make her own choices and live with the consequences. If she's depressed, she might be feeling helpless right now -- but she's not. She has a lot more agency than she thinks. It's not honest and it's not respectful for you to play along with her depression ("Yes, that's right, honey, you are completely powerless. I'd better take responsibility for your decisions."). Be brave enough to call her on her bullshit, and she will respect you for it later, when she's gotten her head in order.

Number 2. You are not a bad person for wanting to leave. If anything, your mistake has been to push problems under the rug. If you've been feeling angry, depressed, and bored -- that's because there's a real problem. It sounds like there are a lot of real problems happening -- from dog-barking to major depression -- that you haven't really wanted to talk about. And so the problems keep growing and growing and you become complicit in them. And then you start to resent her, and so on and so forth.

So please, don't stay in the easy, dishonest stasis. Be kind, be direct, be utterly honest, and if that leads to a break-up, then so be it -- you will both survive to learn from it. Try to keep hold of the fact that you're not doing this to hurt her -- you're doing because you respect her enough to be honest, and because you want a healthier relationship. I really do think that the truth will set both of you free. Good luck.
posted by ourobouros at 1:37 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nowhere in your post does it say that you've had discussions about any of this with her. You have talked about all this, yes? What are her reasons for no longer pursuing her goals? Have you pointed out that having to take care of her is making you feel crappy? That she needs to take her dog to obedience school?
posted by oneirodynia at 3:02 PM on August 29, 2007

It sounds like your girlfriend has a lot of medical problems. She and her care providers may be under the impression that you're able to provide significant support. They may not be aware of the effect all this is having on you. I think you should talk to your girlfriend and go with her to some medical appointments to see if you can get her help for her physical and emotional problems. They may be able to arrange for community resources to help with some of the problems. Perhaps a community health nurse or someone like that could be assigned to help manage your partner's care plan. You should also talk about how the burden for you can be managed. You may need to go for counselling about the losses you're experiencing, due to her health situation. Medical conditions take a big toll on everyone. If you do all this and you still don't want to be in the relationship or it's clear that there are no good feelings between you, that's when you would look at separating. But, right now, it sounds like you are both in depression and that your girlfriend is in an unusual situation. If you go through counselling, you can look at your reasons for being in the relationship and tools for managing with or without your girlfriend. After seven years, I don't think it's unreasonable to work through a process like this. In fact, even if you decide to leave, it may leave you with worthwhile tools for managing a future partner's illness or life changes (cancer, miscarriage, arrival of a child, chronic health problem, job loss, etc).
posted by acoutu at 3:40 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Echoing....some of what was said.

I am approaching my 7 year anniversary with my current g/f, and I can say that I'm sure you both have put a lot of time into the relationship, and that if you still love her you should do whatever you can to improve or rectify the situation before throwing in the towel.

The comment from oneirodynia asks if you've discussed any of this with her. This is a critical question, and I can't imagine you posting this without having done so already. If you have, that information is crucial for the hive to offer sound advice. If she was receptive and agreed to start making changes, but you're being impatient, then that's your bad and you will probably run into similar problems down the road as you try to establish and maintain long term relationships. Then again, if you had the talk and she wasn't receptive and doesn't plan on making changes, then she's not committed to the relationship and the numerous suggestions of parting ways above is a sound one.

If you never had the talk at all, then you should be ashamed for posting this. It makes it seem like you are asking the internet's permission to ditch her without even an attempt to repair the breach.

Everyone here knows that relationships can be hard at times. Medical problems can definitely add to the stress (My g/f had a brain tumor removed 3 years ago, and still suffers from backpain from an injury almost 10 years old). I can tell you that we've been through some hard times, and there were points when we thought about calling it quits, but that's the beauty of communication. We were able to work through the issues and now have a solid relationship, and are discussing different aspects of our future, including children.

There are plenty of fish in the sea, to be sure. But if you love her, and she loves you, you owe each other your best effort in making it work.
posted by Industrial PhD at 4:05 PM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe its just me, but I'm detecting a serious lack of communication here.

You say that you two haven't had sex more than twice in a year. What I'm hearing is that you haven't spoken to each other more than twice in a year, either.

You give us this laundry list of problems (no sex, barking dog, she's getting fat, she doesn't have a job) but nowhere do you say "Well, I talked to her about all this and she said..."

You speak in terms that suggest this woman is some kind of abstract idea thats been in your head for seven years rather than a real, living, breathing person.

I hate to say this but it sounds to me like you may actually be most of the problem in this relationship. TALK to the woman. Get some THERAPY for the both of you and go down on her once in a while if vaginal intercourse is impossible, fer chrissakes.
posted by Avenger at 4:35 PM on August 29, 2007

This is a hard one. You have a lot of advice above, I would simply add that it comes down to whether you feel you still truly love her or not - if you do then you owe it to yourself to work with her and try and make the situation better. If not perhaps it's time to move on, but make sure she has a support network around her first, eg - if you plan to break up tell her mother in advance and call her (the mother) after you break up so her daughter is not alone and has some support.
posted by katala at 5:31 PM on August 29, 2007

Jessamyn font of all wisdom has the answer (scroll to the bottom)
posted by nax at 5:33 PM on August 29, 2007

Time, past time to go.
posted by paulsc at 5:48 PM on August 29, 2007

I was that girl, and what I desperately needed was a kick in the ass to get my life moving again. I came to resent my ex in part for never saying anything, for being too afraid of my possible negative reactions to institute any change.

So stop being afraid of her and talk. Years of history don't mean a thing if you can't talk to her right now. Be ready to move on if she can't or won't talk to you honestly, and be ready to help her out - not by continuing this dependency she has, but by making some concrete plans and sticking to them - if she will discuss it with you. Exercise with her, take her to a new doctor to get on meds or different meds, train the dog or lose it, and so on.

Just don't do what we did and let the resentment build for another few years. I eventually made the decision to improve my own life, but by then even the friendship was gone. Change is tough and takes a while, but it can work. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by out of context at 5:56 PM on August 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Good lord yes.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2007

Speaking as someone with a couple of family members with thyroid problems, my understanding is that, for the particular version that mostly affects women, you can’t get the old person back; the thyroxine supplements will make life a little better and more stable than it was in the absence of the hormone, but there basically will never be the same zest for specific situations in life again, since the brain can’t direct the thyroid gland to regulate things on short notice as it used to.

So (if Hashimoto’s is what she has) this new person she’s become is not her fault, and the caring, committed thing to do is to stick with her. It’s a lot of work and might well drive you mad, though.

I am not a doctor, and do not take what I say on this on face value. Talk to her doctor about this if you can; learn as much about it as you can, and make an informed decision one way or the other.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 4:25 AM on August 30, 2007

Thyroid disease is insidious, can be very quality-of-life destructive, and is often incredibly under-or mis-treated, but it IS possible to get one's self back. It may take an amazing amount of perseverance and a willing and capable doctor. You should both familiarize yourself with the symptoms common to her illness and persevere with fine-tuning treatment until all symptoms are resolved. There are lots of patient-run resources on the net to get started (Mary Shomon does a decent job on, and there's a wealth of info at among other). More for her than for you--but DO NOT GIVE UP and do not let a doctor or anyone else tell her that she's always going to feel less-than-good from now on..
posted by vers at 7:11 AM on August 30, 2007

I've been the depressed and jobless one with an annoying cat, and I wouldn't want someone to stick around just because they felt guilty and concerned. The very idea repulses me, and it would make me feel much worse about myself than him simply leaving. She is an adult, she can take care of herself, and if she hasn't been doing that, now is the time for her to learn.
posted by desjardins at 8:03 AM on August 30, 2007

She's already told me she thinks I don't love her and I'm only with her because I'm a good person who won't let my friends down in any situation.

I really despise this kind of guy. Being the nice guy, at your own expense, just hurts everyone in the end. Someone who has no boundaries, who would help his friends in any situation, is not anyone I can respect. It's certainly not anyone I'd want to have sex with more than twice in 12 months, or get out of bed for, or get a job for, or shut up my barking dog for. I mean, why bother?
posted by desjardins at 8:12 AM on August 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I mean, why bother?
Because it’s another human being about whom you give a shit? Seriously, your last paragraph there makes no sense, unless your basest motivation for interacting with an SO is the fear of him leaving you.

Ah, okay. I may have just learned something.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 1:20 PM on August 30, 2007

The point is that she doesn't give a shit if she doesn't respect him. From his actions as portrayed here, he doesn't even respect himself. My point was that a complete failure to set boundaries (why is he waking her up at noon? why can't she get up on her own?) could engender a lack of respect.

Like I said, I've been depressed and jobless, and I had a lot more respect for people who told me they weren't going to tolerate my listlessness than those who passively accepted it.
posted by desjardins at 2:56 PM on August 30, 2007

Break up with her. Mrs. KokuRyu thinks so too. But don't kick her out. Try to get her to assume some responsibility for her problems.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:39 PM on August 30, 2007

My point was that a complete failure to set boundaries (why is he waking her up at noon? why can't she get up on her own?) could engender a lack of respect.
You wouldn’t disrespect a geriatric nurse for doing equally parent-substitute things most days, most of the day, I hope.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 12:05 AM on August 31, 2007

The OP doesn't sound like he wants to be anyone's nurse.
posted by desjardins at 7:44 AM on August 31, 2007

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