How do you break up and move out?
June 4, 2008 10:55 AM   Subscribe

I've never initiated a breakup before last night. We live together. What do we do?

Last night, I told him I want to break up. We've been together for about a year and a half. We've lived together for nearly a year. (I know, it was really fast.) He is a wonderful person. I love him very much, but over the course of our relationship, I've realized that I am not interested in being in a relationship -- not just with him, but any romantic relationship. The love I have for him has evolved from romantic into close friendship.

He does not feel the same. He's angry and hurt and heartbroken. He feels I'm giving up on him and on the relationship without trying. I've tried to express in a non-supremely-hurtful way that it's not that I'm giving up, it's that I've realized that I want something different. I want alone time. I don't know that he understands this desire of mine -- either because he doesn't want to hear it, or I'm not expressing it well.

I don't generally communicate well in this relationship. I tend to bottle up and then blurt out. I tried hard last night to be calm and complete when describing my feelings. He expressed hurt that I'd been keeping these feelings from him, which I understand but can't change.

Our lease is up in August. Two months ago, I brought up the idea of living in separate apartments when the lease was up. He reacted in much the same way to that conversation, with hurt and confusion. When I brought it up then, I was hoping that by having my own space again, it would help me refocus on the relationship, see it from a different angle, and work to be happier in it. These past couple months I've realized that what I'm truly feeling is a desire to just be alone for awhile.

I'm confident that I'm making the right choice for me. I feel guilty and bad that by pursuing my needs and desires, I am hurting him. I understand that that's a part of being the one who initiates the breakup. I don't expect for him to be happy, or forgive me, or even really fully understand right now.

But I'm at a loss when it comes to the details. How do we move forward from here? He has very little in the way of savings, and is in a transition point in his career (he has a day job, but is pursuing freelance work to branch out and follow his true career goals -- which are accomplishable and within his reach, but not a concrete, dependable paycheck yet). I'm fairly stable financially, but not with any abundance of savings.

I can afford this apartment on my own, if I have to. He can't. The city we live in is 'my' city -- he moved here from about two hours away when we decided to live together. In hindsight, a poor decision on both our parts. I don't know if he'll want to stay in this city when we are not in a romantic relationship. I don't know if he's interested in moving back to his old city, or trying something completely new. I know he is reluctant to move at all, since moving is expensive and tiring and he'll need to buy the things he doesn't have (the bed is mine, though I feel like I should just give it to him, if it's going to cause him stress/financial strain to get his own bed).

To complicate matters, I work from home. I'm here all the time. It's a two bedroom place, but one is our bedroom and the other is my office. I'm of course willing to change this setup, but how? Do I just move my pillow into my office? Should I try to be out of the house and working in a coffeeshop when he's here, so he can have time to himself?

I'm traveling a bit for work this summer. I leave Saturday for a ten day trip out of the country. I'm hoping that during this time he'll be able to process and think and cry and do the things he needs to do to help him begin to move on. I'll be gone again for ten days in July.

I guess what I'd like is help in understanding how to best behave in the coming days and weeks. Do I look for my own place, knowing he can't keep this apartment alone? Do I offer to help him look? Should I leave any of the logistics conversations alone, until he brings them up? Is it insulting for me to try to help him through this, as the one who initiated the break? I feel guilty that I have a support system (friends and family) nearby, when he does not. I feel guilty that my work affords me fulfillment and financial stability, when his does not. I feel guilty that I should be happy here, in this relationship, with this man, but I do not.

What next?
posted by inging to Human Relations (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
No, don't start looking for your own place. Take a long time out and consider your ultimate goal--your endgame. Are you really uninterested in "any romantic relationship?" This might be the case, but it would be highly unusual. Most people want romance.

Take the ten day trip to ruminate over your options. When you're back, proactively look for solutions to the space problem. Think about getting a larger apartment, or failing that, an office. More space might re-ignite your romantic feelings.
posted by Gordion Knott at 11:03 AM on June 4, 2008

It might be a consequence of living so close to each other - such close proximity that every fault and tic is magnified. Can you see yourself with him romantically if you lived apart? Perhaps one (or both) of you should try to live outside of the apartment for parts of the day. It's also worth it to look at having separate bedrooms in the same apartment so that you can sleep together but if you want some time to yourself (or he does) there is a place to go for more than work but to sleep. It's about boundaries and opportunities. Think about it.
posted by parmanparman at 11:04 AM on June 4, 2008

Move out immediately. Being in close proximity is not going to help the situation any more than ripping off the scab every day would make awound heal faster.
posted by mullingitover at 11:09 AM on June 4, 2008 [5 favorites]

If you come back from your 10 day trip feeling the same way, sit down and talk with him about what he wants to do about the apartment situation.
I think it would be polite to offer to move out, even though you know he can't keep it alone and you could. There are other apartments out there for each of you to live in, so if neither of you keep the current place, that is perfectly fine.
When you get back (again, if you feel the same way), can you stay with your friends or parents so that he can have some time alone in the apartment? If you both stay there while you are looking for places, you are bound to fight a lot about your decision.
Sending a clear message of "I want to leave so I am going to leave" is best, don't stay in the apartment longer than you absolutely need to. Even if he asks you to. That will give him hope that you might just stay. If you've made the decision, stick to it and look for a place as soon as you get back from your trip.
posted by rmless at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2008

Well.. his financial and career situation is, quite frankly, not your worry. It's nice that you're worrying about it, but it's not your responsibility. He is presumably a grownup, and it's his responsibility to be financially secure.

It looks to me like it makes sense for you to keep the apartment. You can afford it, he can't. He would have to go through finding a roommate to move in, assuring the landlord it's all okay.. generally simpler to find a cheaper living situation. Plus, he may wish to move back to 'his' town.

I'd suggest discussing that. Normally I'd say wait a while, but the clock is ticking. Give it a week though, anyway.

In terms of what to do between now and Aug 1.. yeah, be the bigger person and move your pillow into your office. Try to stay out of his hair. Iron out boundaries between the two of you.

Also separate bills and such.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:15 AM on June 4, 2008

I totally disagree with Gordion. When you want to be alone, you want to be alone. Respect those feelings. Unless you want to be married in the next year or two you have plenty of time to be alone and then find that perfect someone, who might be your recent ex and might not.

So, whatever you do, do not get involved with someone else for the next couple of months, if you care about this guy's feelings at all and if you want to be true to your intent of finding your own space. I know that one thing that can happen when you break up with someone is you still want to have a little "fun", but for the person on the other side it looks like you are able to be romantic, just not with them. Also it is very easy to get stuck on the path of serial monogamy, especially when you are a nice person who doesn't always express their feelings in relationships.

It really is crappy when someone moves to another city to be with you and then the relationship dies. It's definitely worsened by his economic issues. Depending on age and proximity to parents (and whether he gets along with them of course), one option is for him to go and live with them for a while, at least till he can work something out. Another option is for you to live with your parents, I suppose, and help out with rent until he can get his own place. But that introduces a lot of weird dynamics.

I don't think it's going to at all be easy for him to stay in the same apartment as you, and since you still "love" him it will probably be hard for you to treat him in a way that will allow him to build up his own boundaries and set up closure (The only breakup I got over quickly was one in which the possibilities for further connection were unambiguously closed.).
posted by Deathalicious at 11:17 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

My experience with breakups is that when it's over it's over and it's best to rip the bandaid off and go. However, you do have a commitment to him vis-a-vis the apartment and to your landlord.

So I would take the emotion out of it (as much as you can) and treat it like you would if he were you roommate. Tell him you're moving out and that you'd like to discuss with him what should be done with the apartment (e.g. find a roommate to take over your portion of the lease or find someone new to take over the apartment). As for finding a new apartment, he should really do that on his own. Your involvement will really only complicate matters. As of yesterday, you're his ex-girlfriend and who really wants their ex's input on where they should live?

He'll get over this and be fine. The best thing you can do for him is leave him alone and let him heal/grieve. Your continued presence in the apartment will make it impossible for him to move on.
posted by bananafish at 11:25 AM on June 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I agree with mullingitover. Move out pronto.

You said you still care deeply for this guy, but that it is the friendship you value, not the relationship. As a gesture of your kindness and the friendly feelings you still have for him (and the fact that you are a bit more financially stable than him), offer to split the rent with him until the lease is up in August - that means you end up subsidizing an apartment he can't afford on his own for 2-3 months, giving him time to choose where and what he is going to do next. Offer to leave him the bed, if he wants it, or just the mattress (mattresses suck to move so you're doing yourself a favor as well as him).

If at all possible, move out before you leave on Saturday. Leave your stuff with a friend until you get back, then look for another living situation.

Try to take care of yourself. When you feel guilty about this remind yourself that what you're doing is in BOTH of your best interests in the long run - he will be able to go out and start looking for someone else that will make him happy and, at least for the present, his very absence will make you happy. From your description, he sounds like a good guy. But just because he's a good guy doesn't mean that you have to be happy in a relationship with him, or any relationship.
posted by arnicae at 11:26 AM on June 4, 2008

Are you me? Because I'm in a very similar situation, except he doesn't have a job and the house is mine.

Right now we are attempting a controlled separation. These two books, Should I Stay or Go and Taking Space have a lot of information about setting up separations and even how to do an in-house separation.

Both are designed to create a separation and the space to truly determine if you really want to end it or not. That may not be where you are right now, and I totally get the ambivilance about relationships. All I can tell you is that this is hard and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to deal with the situation. But the books do work out some steps to create a clear understanding between the two of you so that everyone knows what's going on.

I really don't have a great deal of advice because I'm flailing in much the same situation. But we're talking, we have some space and we are making an attempt to keep things clear and honest. It's kind of scary to realize after 5 years of a relationship that this is just not where you want to be. And it's evey harder to admit that while you love someone, you may not want to be in a relationship at all. Feel free to memail if you need to vent or just someone to listen to you who is in roughly the same spot.
posted by teleri025 at 11:32 AM on June 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

I would try and be as fair as possible. Give him the time in the apartment and the amount of help you think fair. If you work from home - go live with your parents or a friend or.. anywhere... until this is sorted. I would give him a month or two to find a new place and move out. I don't see how you can be more generous than that, and you certainly can't live with him.
posted by xammerboy at 11:32 AM on June 4, 2008

You need to move.
posted by LarryC at 11:35 AM on June 4, 2008

I was in a similar situation as you, and last month broke up with my s/o of 4 years. We lived together in a 2 bedroom apartment. I could afford rent there solo; they could afford no more than 1/3 of the rent so their likelihood of finding a roommate was not high.

I realized, with the help of a good shrink, that their financial situation was not my responsibility. My s/o is an adult, and it’s up to them to take care of themselves. Since I was the one that ended it, I moved onto a futon in the 2nd room (my office) and did some couch-surfing with friends/family for a week to give my s/o time to come to terms with everything.

And you know what happened? When I came back to our apartment, my s/o said that they were ok that we were breaking up. They realized that we were just friends and that we shouldn’t be together anymore. In the time I was gone, they signed a lease on a small studio place in a neighborhood they liked. They are now super excited to be living 100% roommate-free for the first time in their life. I’m still living in the office until they move out this weekend, but all ended well in my situation. Maybe I was lucky, but I stood my ground, and didn’t get sucked in to any feelings of obligation.
posted by xotis at 11:44 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Normally I'd agree with the "move out fast" crowd, but if dude really cannot afford the apartment, then he really might prefer that you stay, and he move out. Have a talk with the guy before you leave on the trip and tell him that you think that it's best for one of you guys to move out as soon as possible, and that you let him stay or go, whichever one he wants. This decision needs to be made before you leave on your trip. If he decides to stay, then you need to find a new place so that when you come back from the trip, you already have that place to come back to. Bonus points for getting all your stuff moved out before then, but having the new place is enough of a start. If he decides to go, then tell him you think it'd be easiest for him to move out while you are out of the country.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:52 AM on June 4, 2008

I did this a few years ago, and even though it was difficult, it went surprisingly smoothly.

1) Start looking for a new apartment immediately. It's only going to complicate things if you try to stay in your apartment, since you'll have no real way to force him to leave. Find yourself a new place that you can move into as soon as possible.

2) Offer to continue paying your share of the rent until August. This fulfills your end of the lease, and essentially serves as giving him (almost) 60 days notice to make his own living arrangements.

3) Don't try to advise him about what those living arrangements should be. That's up to him. He can find a roommate, move into another apartment, or move to another city -- but it doesn't concern you anymore. Your obligations to that apartment end August 1st.

4) It's hard not to feel guilty, but try to be gentle with yourself. You can't force yourself to feel something that you don't feel, and staying with him would be much worse in the long run than making a clean break.

Good luck!
posted by cider at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2008

I was you about ten years ago; he ultimately offered to move out. We had to have him still live there for 2 weeks while he looked for a place. I did fret about whether I was doing the right thing because he seemed to not have his shit together in terms of financial stability, etc.

Turned out that my breaking up with him was the exact kick in the pants he needed to get his act together -- he started grad school, and got a job offer from one of his professors about 3/4 of the way through his first year. The last I heard from him, he was married and had a kid.

I also should add that being honest with him -- and yourself -- about what you want should be a high priority as well. Don't hold out the hope of a reconciliation if there is none. He won't like that, but that's the state of things, and you should be honest with him about the state of things. His reaction to the state of things is not your responsibility. His knowledge of the state of things IS your responsibility, though. In retrospect, that's one thing I could have handled better; I tried to soften the blow a little bit too much, and avoided facing the fact that ultimately I wanted him out of my life entirely. But it finally did happen, and he did ultimately get to a good place, and that's for the best ultimately.

But honesty mixed with kindness is the best course. And I wouldn't worry overly much about whether he can take care of himself -- that is his job now, and he will probably do it well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on June 4, 2008

I did the same thing in similar circumstances a couple of years ago, and it was incredibly hard. I feel for you. My stomach gets a little queasy thinking about even now. But in retrospect, I think the best idea is to be a little cold about the "business" side of the breakup so as to ease the "emotional" side of it for both of you.

As far as logistics are concerned, I would talk to him, but try very hard to make it more of an announcement than a conversation. In other words, tell him what your plans are, but add that you are open to suggestions. I would tell him that he is free to keep the place and that you will help with rent for a month while he finds a roommate, but that you are leaving. The worst thing that could happen is that you end up breaking your lease. While losing your security deposit is no fun, it could just be the price you have to pay for getting out.

And since you did the breaking up, the option is his as to whether he gets to stay in the place or not. Otherwise, you could be interpreted as breaking up with him and kicking him out of the apartment, and I doubt you want to be that person.

Its important to announce your intentions. Doing so has the effect of setting the “default option” to you leaving unless he decides otherwise. Right now the default is that both you and he live together, and that makes it very easy for him to (understandably) try and waffle to keep it that way. So tell him directly that you are leaving unless he wants to, that the decision has already been made, and start making plans to get out. If you get to keep the place in the end, that’s just a bonus.

Apart from that, I would also get out of the house. Stay with a friend or with family. Both of you are going to go through some hard times in the next couple of weeks and, in my experience, it’s unwise to go through those times around each other. At the very least, it could ruin whatever friendship you hope to preserve and make for a very painful couple of weeks. At the very most (especially if booze is involved as it usually is) it could get dangerous.
posted by quine's_gavagai at 12:00 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

The most important thing, if you have really reached a decision about what you want, is to stop engaging in negotiation. Negotiation about Why you want what you want and how you feel, about whether you did the right or wrong thing in when and how you revealed what you did, and even your own internal negotiations about what he can and cannot financially handle, or what's yours and how that will make his life inconvenient.

As the decision maker in this - since you're the one who's ready for things to end - it's your responsibility to be the hardass and keep the breakup on track. He's hurting worse than you and is wrestling with the feelings of powerlessness on top of that, which is going to lead him to want to repeatedly analyze and negotiate. Do the right thing by him and don't play along.
posted by phearlez at 12:34 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I, having moved across the country to be with my girlfriend in a different city, get queasy just reading this question. If she did this... well, I'd be screwed in a lot of different ways.

Don't help him find an apartment - that seems patronizing. Let him do it, let him be pissed off, and give him space. If there's not a glimmer of hope, don't give him one. Let him be angry, and don't think that you don't deserve it. You can feel bad for him, but understand that most of his feelings towards you are going to be justified - you did break up with him, and you didn't tell him a lot of those feelings beforehand.

Give him space, and you couch surf for a while. As someone above me said, make him decide whether he's going to stay, or you're going to stay - but make it clear you will not be living together.

You can't be his friend right now - you can't really do anything for him but give him the room to do what he needs. I'm glad you did something for yourself to make yourself more happy, but understand that there were two people in this relationship. Someone suggested being "cold" during the business aspect of this, and that's probably for the best. Business and relationships to do not mix, especially when the relationship falls apart.

In short - I'm happy that you decided to do something for yourself, but don't try to be too comforting. You hurt him, and while he will heal, he doesn't need you around right now to keep reminding him about what happened.
posted by SNWidget at 12:42 PM on June 4, 2008 [7 favorites]

I haven't read the entirety of the comments here, so I can't agree or disagree with any of them, but I can offer an anecdote.

When my ex and I split up after living together for 4 years, financial realities prevented either of us from moving out right away. We were in a 2-bedroom house, so she moved into the second bedroom. We split up the office space as well, so that our workspaces were separate too.

She decided that she was going to find another place to live (the splitting up was mostly her idea), and we set an end date. I think we lived together that way for about 4 or 5 months. It was really hard at first, but it actually turned out to be a good thing. We got to transition into a different kind of relationship, and by the end of it, the split was amicable. Then she turned into a raving lunatic, a whole 'nother story, but I can't invoke her name without at least mentioning it.

Not saying this is the right situation for you, and it could certainly have pitfalls, but it worked for us.

And I totally understand about not wanting to be in a relationship. However, asking someone you've been living with for a year to understand it -- well, that's another matter.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:00 PM on June 4, 2008

(Oh, and in the situation above, I had followed the gf from Texas, my home state, to CA, where she was attending grad school. It's really scary to move somewhere else for someone and then have the relationship crumble. Your boyfriend is likely experiencing this panic. But it's okay, he'll figure it out. He just needs some time to adjust to the idea that he has to figure it out, and now.)
posted by mudpuppie at 1:05 PM on June 4, 2008

She who breaks up moves out. When my dad served my mom with divorce papers (thoughtful, I know), it didn't occur to him to get an apartment immediately or move to a hotel for a while so she could sort things out, find a lawyer, get an apartment, etc without being in the same house with him. I think it was extremely suffocating for her.
posted by radioamy at 1:58 PM on June 4, 2008

ask him what he wants to do--he may want to stay and get a roommate--but vacate at least temporarily until you sort it out. and he gets to choose whether to move or stay. if he chooses to move, give him his half of the security deposit and whatever else you owe him. if you are really economically unbalanced, offer to pay for his movers.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:10 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

12 years ago (so long already?) my bf & I broke up after 5 years, including 3 years of living together. We were both hella young, he had moved away from all his family to live where I was going to school 1500 miles away. The breakup itself was startlingly amicable after fighting like crazy for a couple of months straight.

It was March, and our lease on a miniscule sorta-2-bedroom apartment ran out in August. I kept the room that had been our bedroom, because I needed the space for my desk; he took over the "living room" which happened to already have a futon.

It was sometimes entirely okay, sometimes hugely awkward, and occasionally very sad. On the plus side, it gave us time to separate 3 years worth of stuff. On the minus side, we were still around each other all the time, which led to some pretty weird moments.

That August, we both found new apartments and moved on. He moved back home IIRC about a year after that; I stayed here and found new love. :) We are still friends.

I'd say talk through the logistics after you get back from your trip, but only so much as deciding who keeps what (apartment, stuff, etc). Ask questions! Be clear about your intentions! But let him decide where he's going to go, and know what you want.

Good luck.
posted by epersonae at 4:25 PM on June 4, 2008

In a similar situation, I left the apartment and house-sat at other people's places and gave him until the end of the month to move out, but then, I'd been on the lease.

In a similar situation, a friend of mine's ex- moved out and subsidized her rent for the next month to give her time to find a roommate (or maybe it was through the end of the lease term?).
posted by salvia at 5:55 PM on June 4, 2008

Went through this last year. I was him. Every day in which you share the place together while broken up will be an eternity. For both of you.

Find other places to stay. Break the lease if you have to. But don't stay there and fester together for the sake of "convenience."
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:24 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

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