How do I find clarity in a breakup?
August 20, 2008 1:38 PM   Subscribe

How would you choose between leaving a girl after 5 years that you could be happy with in marriage, but who doesn’t want to wait for you, in order to follow your dream of checking out day to day life in the country you were born. Fear of regret and resentment later in life a big factor here.(long explanation follows)

Boy meets girl, we fall in love, plan to move to her home country for a bit, then his, both outside the US. We skip “my” leg of the trip b/c I got a job in a US city that was another place I desired to move to, she came very reluctantly, “kicking and screaming” as she put it, now she loves it).
We’ve lived together for 4 years all told, have joint bank acct and credit card, and a puppy that is seemingly mine.
5 years have gone by and she is about to be 30 (I’m 30) and she wants to take it “to the next level,” i.e. get married. She is insecure about my commitment to the relationship/to her. I don’t want to feel pressured into marriage. I love her deeply, but I’m not ready because my wanderlust is still unrequited since we didn’t hit my home country in Europe. She’s not willing to go for more than a short period and not anytime soon, can’t discuss it without the choice being right in front of her, and now not willing without the ring anyway.
Concurrently, we’ve had a rough last year while she was sick and complaining constantly, working out her chemical imbalances with medicine and killing some stomach parasites. I’ve felt codependent, feeding her needs to the point of discarding my own, feeling like a daddy/caretaker/complete emotional rock for her. But its only been recently that I identified my feeling drained, having read Codependent No More and Road Less Travelled, both greatly affecting me. I'm a very positive person, she's more pessimistic.
Now finally with everything on the line, she’s come around to the fact that all the little details of living as adults are a responsibility that have to be shared so we can both play and have fun, instead of me always feeling burdened by them.
All the beauty this woman has is clear to me, and I could picture us married, but my dream from even before meeting her, was to get back to the country that I was born in where I have a huge extended family and give it a shot (knowing the non-english language fluently) for an undetermined amount of time.
We’ve broken up, but still live together (making the search for clarity very hard), because I won’t leave until my current gig is up in 2 months time! Then I will leave for my journey, since that seems to be the barrier that has come between us taking the next step. I’m scared to lose her forever and scared that I’ll be giving up so much of my comfort at the present moment. However, I think I feed off of changing things up and continuing to search for meaning and fulfillment thru travel. She’s settled that I’m the one and her other quests for higher enlightenment will happen in time, but right now her main concern is getting hitched. It doesn’t help that tons of people we know are all shacking up and popping out babies or weddings left and right. Oh and she thinks I’m the mr. Big to her Carrie Bradshaw (SATC is her religion!). I don’t like relating me and her to our friends or movies or tv shows, but it’s the society we live in.
How would you choose between leaving a girl that you could be happy with forever (probably just needing some more direct communication/therapy about how to strike a balance for both people with chores etc.), who doesn’t want to wait for you, to go to another country for a loose year long trip in order to follow your dream of checking out day to day life there and perhaps trying other forms of art as career. Does anyone have experience with having a breakup like this, and then reconnecting and simply picking up where you left off with the partner?
posted by talljamal to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Move to Europe. Keep in touch, as friends (close ones). Maybe you'll meet someone new. Maybe she will. Maybe she'll miss you and move there to be with you. Maybe you'll miss her and come back sooner than anticipated.

But if you stay where you are right now, you are on the road to resentment.
posted by emd3737 at 1:43 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I agree with emd. You can stay in the certainty of resentment and disconnect and misery, or you can create something new in your life. (I know you say it's not all bad right now, but it's so... ordinary. And you know this. You want something extraordinary. That requires risk.)
posted by desjardins at 1:54 PM on August 20, 2008

You don't really want to marry her or be with her so why stick around? Your lives are tangled together but they can be untangled. You want to leave, you just don't seem to have the guts to do it. Stop masking your feelings in terms of love and comittment because you currently don't have those. Pack up, move home, and live your life. She's ready for you to really be her rock but you've never been ready to be hers. Time to finally act on it and take off.
posted by Stynxno at 1:59 PM on August 20, 2008


If you truly love something set it free blah blah blah...

And this may be a trivial indicator, but I've rarely had really positive experiences with women who are really into Sex in the City. And if you don't like relating to life to TV and she does, then that only exacerbates.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 2:02 PM on August 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

1. Probably if you genuinely regarded her as the one, you would be throwing in the towel on Europe, or getting hitched and moving there.

2. From what you've said, I think she reasonably fears that you will move together to Europe and you will balk at tying the knot.

3. Europe is just a decision point for your relationship. You might try moving there alone. If you wanted to get past his, you might consider going with there on a vacation; perhaps she will become enamored of it, move there with you, and you can kick the can down the road.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:03 PM on August 20, 2008

(SATC is her religion!)

Talljamal, any girl who legitimately bases her relationship decisions/philosophies on Sex and the City situations, IMO, has a very distorted view of how relationships should be. Not to be too harsh or anything ... I myself love to watch SATC, but I think that the characters have some terribly unrealistic views of the world, Carrie in particular.

That aside, I totally agree with emd3737 I think you should take your trip and if at the end of it all, or even half way through, you still find yourselves compatible then you're golden. If you forgo your true wants though, you'll never be happy, always wondering if. While you may worry for a few months whether you are making a mistake, in the end it will be much more beneficial, I think.
posted by diablo37 at 2:04 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

We’ve broken up, but still live together

That's like quitting your job but still going to the office to sit at your desk every day. Makes no sense. If this breakup is for real, someone needs to find somewhere else to crash for two months. Since you are the one leaving anyway, it might be a good idea for it to be you. The trial separation before you leave town could provide insight that you're not going to get in such close quarters. Change is scary, but I think you will find that your life will go on, and flourish even, once you have made this relationship part of your immediate past. It sounds like that's what you need right now. You cannot guarantee that she'll be there when you come back, but you can't go forward the way she wants from the place you're in now, so leaving is the best option.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:13 PM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

She’s settled that I’m the one and her other quests for higher enlightenment will happen in time, but right now her main concern is getting hitched.

so basically, she wants to settle down and get married now now now, never mind the fact that you're not happy where you are and with what you're doing. time to move on! life is too short to be with someone who doesn't/can't/won't realize that your needs and wants are important too.
posted by lia at 2:33 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I’m scared to lose her forever and scared that I’ll be giving up so much of my comfort at the present moment.

Well sure. You're scared of the unknown, which is perfectly natural. But the fact is, you're passionate about a life goal that your (ex) mate doesn't support. Whether or not this is a deal-breaker is up to you, but if you're asking me, I'd say it is. I know it's hard, when so many other things click between you, and you have so much history. But you need to separate yourself from that for a moment, and focus on how important your journey is to you. It sounds like it's quite important, from where I'm sitting. And, as desjardins said, to fulfill that dream requires a level of risk.

The flip side, as others have said, is that you're always going to regret not doing something you place such a premium on. I think you have to do it. If your relationship with your mate is strong, it will survive. You just have to trust in that. Follow your heart.
posted by Brak at 2:51 PM on August 20, 2008

If you don't go, you will regret it. If I know this, then you know it, too. Just go.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:34 PM on August 20, 2008

Um, just to give the other side here:

-- You both didn't skip the trip to your home country early on because of her. You skipped it because of you -- you got a job in the US and wanted to take it.
-- She already moved once solely for you, to the United States, which she didn't want to do. Now you are asking her to move again, solely for you, when she is happy where she is.
-- While you did visit her country early on, you don't seem to have stayed there for very long. While it's clear that she has made sacrifices for you, it's not clear what sacrifices you have made for her, except that you seem to feel that you do more chores around the house, and your post reads as though maybe you are more of a breadwinner than she is.
-- You've been together 5 years, from 25-30, have lived together for 4 of those years, and yet you haven't felt ready to propose to her after all this time. Four years of living together, and you're still not sure? Lots of folks don't take that long to decide. She had a very good reason, even before you broke up, to feel insecure and uncertain of your feelings about her and to be unwilling to make a future giant life change solely for your benefit without some comfort from you that you imagined her as a long term partner.
-- You don't seem to be willing to take a long vacation to your home country, or visit once with her first to see if you and she both like it, but rather you seem to require a complete and total move to that country with no turning back for a while. You speak the language, but does she? Does she have reason to think she might feel totally alienated there?
-- Um, dude, she has been dealing with stomach parasites for the past year, and you're mad because she hasn't been the ray of sunshine? And that she's "pessimistic"? If I uprooted my life from my family for a guy and had a relationship with him for 5 years, and he still didn't feel like he loved me enough to propose to me, I'd feel pessimistic, too.

Maybe you should go, since it seems to be a dream of yours that is more important to you than she is. It sounds to me like maybe you do not really love her, but have been a little too chicken to tell her so before this, and your big move may be a way of getting out of the relationship. Okay. But don't be surprised if she finds someone else. She may wind up being happier with them, too.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:52 PM on August 20, 2008 [16 favorites]

I think I'm with onlyconnect, here. If she's going to keep moving according to your plans, I can't say I blame her for wanting a more traditional commitment. Are you sure that your strong feelings of necessity for your "journey" and big move aren't your way of forcing a breakup?
posted by desuetude at 3:58 PM on August 20, 2008

I think it just boils down to the old saying "you can't have your cake and keep (eat) it too." In other words, you can't have it both ways. If you stay for her, and do what she needs you to do, you will resent it (you already do). If you leave to do what you want, she's very likely not going to wait for you.

Loving someone isn't always the answer. You aren't ready to get married - that's completely fair and reasonable, because that's how you feel. Try not to make it into anything more than that, and you might be able to remain friends with this woman. Either way, do what you need to do, for both of your sakes.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:08 PM on August 20, 2008

You are not the man. You are not the one. Accept this. Leave. Let her have her years of finding someone else and enjoying herself. You would blame her otherwise. Go. Afterall, you already have broken up, why hesitate?
posted by jadepearl at 5:56 PM on August 20, 2008

Aside from everything else it just sounds like you have different priorities - you want to move around, she wants to settle. And so far the priorities haven't been addressed equitably, since neither of you are satisfied. So, if you moved again, she would resent you. And if you stay, you resent her. In fact, you probably feel like she "owes" you for being her caretaker during her health problems. The thing is, counting points and obligations isn't really a good way to run a relationship. "Equitable" in a relationship means satisfying to both parties, not necessarily, "she gets to do this so I get to do this" or taking turns.

Plus, it does sound like you're both pretty immature, her with trying to map SATC over her life, you with totaling up all the things you've done for her and fixating on the one thing she hasn't done for you (moving to your home country.) So it just doesn't seem like the relationship will work - maybe you can keep it going for a few more years, but unless something drastically changes the resentment would still drive you two apart, and by that point you might have children, which will make the whole thing much more painful.

The relationship is already over, so why not move to your home country and pursue your dreams? There is, I suppose, a chance that you will get together after you both live apart and mature somewhat. There is no chance this will last if you stay together - just too much resentment that will sink it.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 7:56 PM on August 20, 2008

Obviously, she is scared and sad that you are leaving. I think in any situation like that, it's natural to try anything at all to keep your loved one from going away (to pursue his own dream without you, nonetheless). In fact I remember when my boyfriend was applying to his dream job in another city, I told him that should he move, I will not wait for him. That was just my way of being selfish, and wanting my man to stay with me by threatening him. If she thinks you are "the one", why in earth would she want to leave you and move on?

When my boyfriend eventually got the job, and I was facing a made decision, and it was MY turn to make my decision, I naturally backed out. I guess I was waiting for him to make HIS hard decision, and stay with me, and when it was my turn, I saw how ridiculous I was being. So if your girlfriend (or ex?) sincerely thinks you're the one, I think she will come around to wait for you. If you really do love her, and see yourself with her, try communicating with her, being patient, and talking to her over and over about it. I am sure deep inside she understands your dreams too, she is just sad and bitter and afraid that her own dreams must be put on hold. If you are gentle and caring and you try to make it easier on her to understand and accept this situation, I am sure she will wait for you, but be warned that is a lot of work, and it's only worth it if you think she really is the one to keep you happy.
posted by shamble at 8:12 PM on August 20, 2008

Nthing what onlyconnect said.

If you love this girl, ask her to marry you.

Then ask her if she will come to your home country with you and give her a reasonable time (2 years?) after which if she doesnt like it, you will be willing to come back to the USA.
posted by zia at 9:49 PM on August 20, 2008

It's your dream. It's really bad for you not to live out your dream. It's been there in your head for, what, a decade? You have to try it. Don't let all this be a distraction.
posted by salvia at 9:53 PM on August 20, 2008

I think there are some pretty unhealthy patterns that you've established here. She's using your desire to live abroad as leverage to convince you to marry her. You're unwilling to compromise your desires, even reasonably, for the sake of the relationship (it's not reasonable to ask your partner move to a place that they don't want to for an "undetermined length of time"). You see factors beyond her control--a stomach parasite?!--as evidence of her being codependent.

But all of this is moot, really. You're already broken up. If you force her to compromise and move somewhere she's not interested in, she's going to resent it. If she forces you to get engaged, you're going to resent it. If neither of you is willing to change your expectations, then really the safest thing is to stay broken up and go your separate ways. It sounds like both of you have quite a bit of growing up to do, anyway.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:14 AM on August 21, 2008

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