It turned cold, that's where it ends
August 14, 2008 8:05 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop a summer relationship from going further without destroying everything?

The background:

I'm 20 years old, have always been attracted to and pursued older men, and have two weeks left of a working holiday far away from home. In my time here I met and started dating a 42-year-old man, which is fine and dandy most of the time.

When things are good, they're quite good. We've exchanged I love you's and I do really enjoy spending time with him. But when things are bad, they're bloody terrible and it seems to me that we spend more time fighting than anything.

Just this morning I asked him if he was going to work because he had five minutes to get out of bed and go, and I had to lock the door behind him, thus was wondering if I had to get up or if I could go back to sleep. It turned into him saying "You just can't get me out of here fast enough," getting huffy and leaving with a last remark of "Don't worry, you only have to deal with me for fifteen more days."

The problem:

We had a talk a few weeks ago in which I explained that I don't really do long distance relationships, because I'm bad at it and I can't make guarantees. I've spent four months away from home and feel like I'm not living my real life anymore, but when I get back to home and school and my friends, I think that maybe this relationship will reveal itself to be less important to me than I think.

He's said a few things about the future and being with me that I'm not sure how to handle because I'm leaving soon, and I don't think I want to pursue a relationship beyond what we had. In fact I got to thinking this morning, post-argument, that if this wasn't a summer thing and if I wasn't leaving in two weeks anyway, I would probably take a break from things.

How do I tell him this without sending him off on a rampage? I don't want to be mean or harsh, I just want to explain how I'm feeling.

Help?
posted by riane to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
In fact I got to thinking this morning, post-argument, that if this wasn't a summer thing and if I wasn't leaving in two weeks anyway, I would probably take a break from things.

I don't see why you can't or shouldn't do that now. Because you're scared of making him mad? That's just one more reason why you should. A relationship where one party is scared of the other is not an equal relationship.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:18 AM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


"Don't worry, you only have to deal with me for fifteen more days."

anybody who said that to you doesn't really require an honest explanation. Just go, when the time comes.
posted by yort at 8:19 AM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


His rampage is not your concern. The fact that you are thinking about sticking it out to avoid his rampage is not really a good sign.

when I get back to home and school and my friends, I think that maybe this relationship will reveal itself to be less important to me than I think.

I suspect this is the case. He has given you an opening, and I would take it and spend the last bit of summertime getting ready for your move, not angsting over this guy. You loving him does not actually mean you've promised him anything and if you've been as clear as you've said about not wanting a long-dstance relationship then this relationship has had clear outlines from the beginning.
posted by jessamyn at 8:22 AM on August 14, 2008


Hmmm ... You've mentioned "bloody terrible" and "fighting" and "rampage." He doesn't seem like someone you'd want to spend any more time with at all. I'd counsel you to just not worry about him, and get out. If you think it's not safe to leave him until you leave town, that's a really huge red flag, and you'll likely need professional help. But if you're just worried about him being kind of pissed off and an ass (and not a raging lunatic with violent tendencies) then frankly I'd leave him sooner rather than later. Or later. Whatever. But just leave him, and if he asks why, say, "Well, because I choose to." Why bother discussing it? ThePinkSuperHero is right. That kind of fear does not belong in a relationship.
posted by Capri at 8:26 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Your boyfriend feels powerless - he knows this relationship will end but he doesn't want it to. And because he knows this, and he feels powerless, he's making snide comments and showing that he's upset. He cares for you much more than you care for him. He wants you but you don't want him. You both are on two different pages when it comes to this relationship. He wants something that lasts while you want a fling that doesn't. He made the mistake in falling for you and it's probably something he wishes he could undo but he doesn't have the courage to actually use the control he actually has and end this relationship. Instead, he's waiting for you to decided - and living off the hope that you actually stay with him.

You need to end it now and simply tell him that, since you're leaving, it's best if you don't continue this relationship. If he asks for reasons, you've already given it. The most mean and harshest thing you can do is to continue this relationship, to keep saying "i love yous", and to keep this charade of a relationship going when, in reality, it's been over for quite sometime. He's going to get upset but that's because no breakup is painless.
posted by Stynxno at 8:39 AM on August 14, 2008 [16 favorites]


Don't worry. You only have to deal with him for fifteen more days.

Really.
posted by rokusan at 8:41 AM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Food for thought on the idea of ending it sooner (now) rather than later (when you leave), the break will likely be much cleaner if you leaving him and you leaving the city are two distinctly separate events.

Plus it sounds like it'd take a lot of energy to handle him and handle all the preparations for moving at the same time.

How do I stop a summer relationship from going further without destroying everything?

For the reasons other people have quoted, it doesn't sound like there's a ton to be destroyed.
posted by itesser at 8:50 AM on August 14, 2008


Response by poster: Thanks guys, so far this is helping out a lot. One more problem-- he's my ride to the airport (four hours away) and I have a stupidly expensive hotel room booked. I think I'm going to have to talk to him tonight or sometime today and tell him the way I see things going so it doesn't turn into a total clusterfuck when it's leaving time.

I was likely exaggerating a bit with the rampaging, it's just that I'm really, really non-confrontational and he, well, is.
posted by riane at 8:56 AM on August 14, 2008


Don't talk about the future, and let nature take its course. He's old enough to know what's more than likely going to happen when you go away.
posted by xammerboy at 8:56 AM on August 14, 2008


One more problem-- he's my ride to the airport

Hire a taxi. Don't keep a bad relationship on the hook just so you have a ride to the airport.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:02 AM on August 14, 2008 [12 favorites]


How do I stop a summer relationship from going further without destroying everything?

It looks like it's already destroyed. Take those remaining two weeks and enjoy it by yourself and/or with friends, NOT with him. Take a firm stand and say that you're sorry, but you've made up your mind. Don't throw yourself into a relationship that you're unsure of, or worse, scared of.

As for the airport ride, get a taxi or find a friend who can take you.
posted by curagea at 9:09 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


How do I stop a summer relationship from going further without destroying everything?

The first thing you need to do is look at what you are saying and what it reveals about what you are thinking. Nothing is going to be destroyed. You will each live when this ends.

I suggest you talk about it. Tell him you want this to be the end of it, but that you would sure like the last 15 days to leave a nice memory. If he can't take that, break up now.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:42 AM on August 14, 2008


Seconding Stynxno. The tenor of these remarks really give me pause. Party A has a summer fling with Party B; they exchange the L word; Party A reveals with several weeks to go that he isn't so good at long-term relationships; Party B responds in a way that clearly indicates she is hurt and upset, and trouble -- confrontation/argument -- looms. Party A wants to know how to explain himself and get out smoothly, especially while hitching a ride to the airport.

Reaction? You don't really owe him anything, she should figure it out, enjoy yourself. Take a taxi.

I switched genders in the retelling, because I doubt the reaction would have been so heartless were matters otherwise. Maybe because of a risk of violence, but I think that overreads the question by a country mile.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:43 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


he's my ride to the airport (four hours away) and I have a stupidly expensive hotel room booked

This is your obstacle? Let me introduce you to Craigslist - advertise now and I bet you can find a ride. Change your hotel booking to somewhere cheap, and spend a peaceful night alone renting a movie and eating takeout.

He's a lot older than you. A lot. Of course he expects something more serious. You're not on that page. Better to end it now - you're causing misery for each other.
posted by Miko at 9:54 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


styxno nails it.

Worrying about what this means for your ride to the airport? C'mon, do you really want to be that guy girl?

Give your fond farewell now. Find another way to get to the airport.
posted by Good Brain at 10:01 AM on August 14, 2008


Response by poster: I didn't mean it in that I won't have a way to Calgary; I know I can take the bus and get a cheaper hotel room for myself. I just meant that saying, no, don't take me to the airport is gonna likely be the final nail in the coffin.

I'm going to text him right now and ask if we can talk tonight after work. I think I'm just going to tell him that I do love him, and I know he loves me, but this isn't working in any way that's sustainable so it'd be best if we just leave it as is, remember a good summer, and maybe the big fancy goodbye isn't a good idea.
posted by riane at 10:18 AM on August 14, 2008


Best answer: Dollars to donuts that this is a guy who's fighting off his midlife crisis. The fact that you, a 20 year old, wanted to be with him meant a whole lot more than a summer relationship to him. It implied that he's still got it! That he can stave off getting old! It gave him another glimpse of youth that told him it wasn't too late! He was probably secretly making all kinds of future plans like moving out to be with you, proposing to you, etc. In short, it was probably the best fantasy bubble he's had for a while.

By telling him your news, it reminds him of reality. His bubble is bursting, and he's crashing in a way that's not surprising for a guy who knows only too well that ... well, that he's not the amazing stud who change a 20-year old's life, but that in fact, he's actually old enough to be your father.

This is a hard landing for him, and how he takes it will tell you a lot about his character. If he can enjoy the time you have left together, and give up the fantasy part, he's an exceptionally lucky person, and you can gratefully accept his graceful offer to take you to the airport and have a wonderful weepy goodbye as each of you boldly strides into your futures.

If he can't accept the reality that this relationship meant really different things to the two of you, he's going to get all bitter and whiney and turn into a resentful geezer in front of you. In that case, you should definitely get out sooner and do NOT get a ride to the airport with him -- it'll be *really* unpleasant to be with him and you'll just be reminding him of the age difference.
posted by jasper411 at 10:20 AM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Best answer: As a 42-year-old who dated 20-year-olds for 20 years I can tell you that we old guys tend to re-imagine ourselves around young women in a way that makes getting dumped pretty ego-busting. The affirmation of our attractiveness and vitality and sexual supercompetency, and the connection to youth and whimsy and open-minded impulsiveness, let us believe we've defeated our own encroaching decrepitude in some permanent way. It's laughable, but as real as anything psychological.

You might try saying something like this: "I think you're attached to me because I'm at a time in my life when I can take advantage of opportunities and experiences as they come along and you love being part of that. And you have been! But you have to accept that the same lack of commitment that you find attractive extends to this relationship, and that I'll be moving on soon. If you want to make the best of it, we can have two more great weeks; if you can't, then let's part now."
posted by nicwolff at 10:23 AM on August 14, 2008 [9 favorites]


I switched genders in the retelling, because I doubt the reaction would have been so heartless were matters otherwise. Maybe because of a risk of violence, but I think that overreads the question by a country mile.

I think you are reading way to much into it. The age disparity is the real issue.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:05 AM on August 14, 2008


I think you are reading way to much into it. The age disparity is the real issue.

Perhaps. So try recasting it as a 42 year old woman, reacting emotionally (and perhaps immaturely) when she is told that her 20 year old suitor isn't good at long-term relationships, with said suitor being concerned principally about getting out without a fuss and not having a bad ride to the airport.

Then try imagining reactions which, at least at the beginning, predominately said "don't worry about it" -- emphasizing that her (his) abreaction shows it wasn't meant to be, since fear doesn't belong in a relationship, and anyone behaving that way doesn't deserve an honest explanation, and besides, you will want to conserve your energy for the move.

I would be closer to being on board if I supposed that the relationship had been clearly delineated from the beginning, but that's not what I read into the OP's comment that she had lowered this boom a few weeks ago, and that she'd been away from home for 4 months. So I think some angst, and responsibility, is appropriate.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:21 AM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Speaking as a male much closer to his age than yours, my presumption is always going to be that emotionally healthy 42 year old men do not date 20 year old women. So you're basically asking for trouble. If they do, then they have to work triple-hard to prove that they are different from the norm and in fact emotionally healthy and mature. Periodic rages, "you can't get rid of me fast enough," pouting about breaking up, etc suggest that is not the case here. You seem more grounded than he is - not to mention talented photographer. I'd be curious what your friends and others who have met him think.

I'd suggest you get away as fast and clean as possible, but (as jasper suggests) let him down easy: I've learned so much from you, I want to you to be my friend and my mentor and guide me to making the right decisions, but right now isn't the right time for us to be in a relationship, the only way that we can have that longer-term thing is if we end this now as friends and adults. And then have the number of a lawyer who can get you a temporary restraining order on speed-dial.

Also, a refresher on Dan Savage's "campsite rule" might be helpful: With regard to readers that [sic] are in relationships with a large age disparity, Savage promotes his "campsite rule": at the end of the relationship, the elder partner should leave the younger in "better shape than they found them". This includes no diseases, no fertilized eggs, no undue emotional trauma, and whatever sexual education can be provided.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 1:17 PM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks everyone, especially the last few commenters-- you guys gave me perspective that I didn't have before.

I started up a conversation yesterday afternoon in which I basically laid it out; I told him I was feeling trapped, reminded him of the long-distance conversation, and tried to explain why I didn't see this going any further than the next two weeks. He was mad and then sad, said he didn't remember me telling him that long-distance wasn't an option, and later got really pissed at me because he felt like I was pushing him away.

I went out for dinner with some work friends to calm down, then asked him to come over so we could actually talk. So when I got him to tell me what was on his mind rather than immediately getting angry, he said that he loves me, he doesn't want me to go, but he knows I have to.

I made it clear to him that he shouldn't expect it to go any further, to not be surprised if he doesn't hear from me once I go home, and so on. He agreed to it but I still get the feeling that he's clinging on to some kind of hope that I'll change my mind and come running back here.

The airport/hotel is still a go, and I think that we're going to have that wonderful weepy goodbye. I plan on writing him a letter or a card thanking him for the summer while reiterating that it was just the summer, nothing more.

Clyde Mnestra-- don't think that I'm not feeling responsible or not angsting. This has been on my mind for awhile and I'm trying to figure out the best way to handle the situation without hurting him excessively. I asked friends for advice and got answers like "just leave early and don't tell him," which is something I would never do. I do care about him, a lot, I'm trying to be realistic in that we're in entirely different stages of life and my life is, by nature, a little bit more selfish than his right now.

RandlePatrickMcMurphy-- the friends/roommates that I had here didn't really have any problems with him. One of them really liked him, but told me that she thought he had real insecurity issues.
posted by riane at 11:13 AM on August 15, 2008


I still get the feeling that he's clinging on to some kind of hope that I'll change my mind and come running back here.

You're probably right. But I've been in his shoes, and for what it's worth, I doubt he could stop himself from doing so even if he tried. Clinging to every shred of hope long after it's over - even if you know very clearly that it's false hope - seems to be a necessary part of the grieving process for some people. (Can you tell I learned this the hard way?)

Just let it be, and don't try to fix it. He's hurt because he loves you and doesn't want you to go, and there's no getting around that. It will take time for him to get over it no matter what you do.

You've done your part by making it clear that it's over. How he responds to it from here on out is up to him. Since he is still pining away for you, he's in a vulnerable state and is emotionally primed to look for reasons to hold on, even against his better judgment. In order to avoid prolonging his grief, do your best not to be cruel by giving him mixed messages or dragging it out longer than necessary. Make a clean break, and don't take advantage of his attachment to you. Find another way to the airport.

He knows it's over; he just doesn't want to face the harsh truth. But he must. So let him go now, and let him get on with his life.
posted by velvet winter at 9:08 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


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