Question #170: Should I break up with my boyfriend?

Soames and Irene Forsyte from The Forsyte Saga
The love and attraction of one person cannot sustain a relationship.

Dear Captain,

I am at a complete loss as to what to do here, and I would appreciate your advice.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for 4 years. I was 20 when I first started dating him; he was 4 years older. He is my first ever boyfriend, and my first everything (except for kissing). Over time, we’ve become really close and really good friends.

Here’s the problem: I don’t think I’m “in love” or sexually attracted to him anymore.

Over the past few months I’ve noticed that I’m less and less interested in him. Kissing him is fine, but anything more than that and I have to really convince myself to do this. I do not look forward to having sex with him.

For the longest time, I tried telling myself that wasn’t true- we were both busy so we couldn’t see each other that much, I’m tired a lot of the time, etc., but lately it’s been getting harder and harder to deny, especially since I developed feelings for a friend of mine.

These past few weeks have been rather stressful ones for me. Finally, last week, my boyfriend called me and asked what was going on. I broke down and told him I wasn’t sure I loved him as a boyfriend anymore and asked for a few days to think things over. Understandably, he was devastated.

I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days, but I am no closer to a decision as to what to do. I love him wholeheartedly- he is truly my best friend, and I know he is the one person in the world who would never hurt me. I would never, ever want to hurt him- but I know that if I break up with him, I would be emotionally slaughtering him.

And the thing is, I’m not sure I even want to break up with him, but I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s because I’m too afraid (of being alone, of hurting him), because I care about him, or what. I have no idea what to do. I find myself crying in the bathroom at work a lot, but even that is not enough to convince me to reconcile.

What’s wrong with me? I know that he loves me and is attracted to me. He is sweet and kind. What is wrong with me that I can’t reciprocate his feelings anymore? Am I incredibly selfish? Immature? He did absolutely nothing wrong. I don’t ever want to hurt him. Is this something that can be fixed? Should it even be fixed? Is this something most couples go through? I am so scared of making the wrong choice. We’d talked about moving in together and getting married, and now that future is suddenly in doubt, and all because I don’t know what to do.

Girl Who Doesn’t Know What The Heart Wants

Dear Girl Who Doesn’t Know What The Heart Wants,

You may not know what your heart wants, but your groin knows what it wants, and the answer is:


You told me so yourself:

“Here’s the problem: I don’t think I’m “in love” or sexually attracted to him anymore.

Over the past few months I’ve noticed that I’m less and less interested in him. Kissing him is fine, but anything more than that and I have to really convince myself to do this. I do not look forward to having sex with him.”

Break up with him.

Seriously, break up with him.

I know you adore him, you’re best friends, he will be very hurt, you will miss him a lot and have to do some adjusting to single life and it might take you a while to meet someone you like as much. The future you planned together will be “in doubt.

Guess what?

You should break up with him.

The fact that you are asking me “what’s wrong with you” that you’re not attracted to him anymore is like an extra special sign from the universe that you should break up with him.

Nothing is wrong with you.  NOTHING IS WRONG WITH YOU. You were attracted/in love with him and now you are not. It does happen in a lot of relationships, and you can go the route of riding it out and hoping that it changes or you could save yourself a lot of “convincing” yourself to have sex with him and bail now (recommended!).

This is not a Jane Austen novel. You don’t have to marry that dude and lie back and think of England every night in order to save the family estate and produce an heir or whatever. Watch The Forsyte Saga (streaming on Netflix, PRETTY DRESSES AND HATS) for a portrait of what happens when only one partner is attracted and in love within a relationship.

He doesn’t have to have done anything wrong. There doesn’t have to be any kind of airtight case or good reason. The reason is “I don’t feel that way about you anymore, I’m very sorry to hurt you, but we should break up now.” In fact, it is by far and away the classiest and cleanest way to break up with someone to completely own your own feelings and make them the reason for the split. It’s hard for him to argue with totally subjective feelings and cuts off some avenues for him to try to “prove” he can “change.”

He deserves someone that wants to rip his clothes off. That’s not you.

I know it’s easy for me to say this and very hard for you to do it, but trust me, you do not want to be in a relationship where you have to psych yourself up for sex with someone. You are crying in the bathroom at work. You are avoiding him. You are super-stressed out and sad. Breaking up with him will for sure hurt his feelings and make him sad, but you are already sad and upset!

Here’s what’s probably going to happen if you stay in this relationship with him:  Eventually  you are going to fuck someone else. Your friend you are attracted to? A handsome stranger? You are going to fuck that person, and it is going to be AH-MAZ-ING, and you’ll be all guilty, but you’ll still keep fucking the person, and now you are cheating on your nice boyfriend who loves you, and you’ll be feeling guilty and making him sad….you’ve just postponed the inevitable while giving him more time to get even more invested in his relationship with you.

This is because you no longer want to put your parts on his parts, which is a sad but totally legitimate, sane, real reason for you to end a relationship. Please do not get sucked into continuing this thing. You don’t live together. You aren’t married. You don’t have kids. You are 24 years old, HOTNESS ITSELF (I can tell these things, because all the readers at Captain Awkward Dot Com are HOTNESS ITSELF), and there are years ahead of you of meeting awesome dudes and loving/banging them.

Related posts:

How Do I Break Up With Someone? (Some scripts for the actual conversation).

You Don’t Have To Be Friends With Your Ex (Take a long break from contact with this guy after you do the deed, lest your relationship grow back together like a badly set bone – you’ll be friends later!)

You Don’t Have To Make It Work Out (You don’t need a reason – wanting to maybe break up is a reason).

Good luck. Your entire body is telling you what to do. Tell your heart to piss off for a while and come back when you’re not crying in the bathroom because you don’t want to have sex with your nice boyfriend, and listen to your groin on this one.


77 thoughts on “Question #170: Should I break up with my boyfriend?

  1. first of all, long term relationships can be a bit of a roller coaster. there will be some ups and downs, but in my case? never more than a week or so, and usually because we’ve gotten to the point where sleep is sexier than sex itself. we’re ancient, have kids, and crazy work stuff, so sometimes it happens. the caveat is this: we never go more than a week or so between ripping off clothing. now, granted, i’ve only got this one guy to base it on, but i can tell you this…if the excitement of flirting with someone outweighs the danger of losing the one that you love? time to jump ship. don’t stay in a relationship with a nice guy, just because he’s a nice guy.

  2. Yes yes yes yes. It seems like the worst thing in the world that can happen when at the tender age of 24 with few relationships under your belt, but it’s not. And it’s certainly not worth the slow soul death of two people “in a relationship” when one of them most certainly is not really in. It’s kinder to him in the long haul–it frees him to find a groin-carrying best gal who wants what he has. It’s kinder for you, freeing you to find a groin you can’t live without. I have stayed an aggregate total (among three men) of 8 years with men who didn’t want me or whom I didn’t want in that way. It’s painful and as you’re experiencing now, utterly devastating.
    Yes, you will miss him but in the long run, the lifelong run, you can be friends and find better matches. I am still friends with 6 of those 8 years (2 exes) and now have someone whom I want and who wants me.
    End it. Be kind, for he did nothing wrong. Be firm, for you do nothing wrong. Be strong, for the right path is not always the easiest, but it leads to easier roads.
    Jedi hugs!

  3. The Captain is right: it’s time to break up, sad as it may be. Here’s a fact I think all of our culture conspires to hide from us: you don’t have to have only One True Love. It’s really, really normal to fall in love more than once in your lifetime. That doesn’t have to mean that the early relationships “failed” and the last one “succeeded;” it means that you want different things at different times. That’s both completely morally fine and completely normal.

    Signed, Girl Whose Stepfather, Stepmother, and Stepgrandmother Were Among The Most Important People In Her Life

  4. I have been there, LW — I didn’t feel the same way about my boyfriend anymore, I didn’t reciprocate his feelings anymore, but I still really liked him, and I still loved him, and I still liked the idea of our future together. And I couldn’t imagine what I would do without him, or what my life would look like, and the idea of “starting over” filled me with dread. But my heart just wasn’t it anymore. (He was my “first everything,” too.)

    It’s going to suck for a long time, and you’re going to feel guilty, and you’re going to have to learn how to be a grownup on your own (you say you’ve been dating since you were 20, so you’ve been with him for most of your adulthood — I had to do that too). He’s going to feel awful, and you’re going to feel awful, and doing everything by yourself is going to be awful. For a while. But it gets easier.

    And at the other end of that, you’re going to have a much better life than one where you settled. He is too — you both deserve to be with someone who’s fully there, and to be fully there yourself. If you stay, you’re denying you and your boyfriend the chance to have that kind of relationship.

    Four and a half years after I broke up with the boy I truly thought I would marry, I like my life so much more than I ever imagined I would — and yes, I’m with someone I am crazy about in a way I wasn’t crazy about my ex, by the end. The years I spent single were incredibly valuable, too, for making me a better adult, a more competent person. I believe he is happier too, in his life without me than he was with me. It’s hard, now, to believe I was so worried that it would ruin everything, even though that was how I felt and it was legitimate, at the time.

    Breaking up with him is the most loving thing you can do at this point.

    (I am mixed on Sugar as an advice columnist, but her column on this very subject is definitely good: Wanting to go is enough.)

  5. LW, you should break up with someone if you’re no longer feeling it and are no longer attracted to them. Put the shoe on the other foot–would you want your BF to stay with you if he wasn’t attracted to you, if he had to convince himself to have sex with you, and if he just wasn’t feeling it for you any longer? Would you want to be someone’s chore or obligation? Wouldn’t you rather go through being dumped–as sucky as that is–so that you could be free to find someone who was into you?

    Set your BF and yourself free. I’m sure he’s great, but he’s not great for you. And that’s okay. You should free yourself to find someone who is great for you.

    1. Put the shoe on the other foot–would you want your BF to stay with you if he wasn’t attracted to you, if he had to convince himself to have sex with you, and if he just wasn’t feeling it for you any longer? Would you want to be someone’s chore or obligation?

      Yes exactly. It isn’t kind to stay with him.

      LW, it’s perfectly normal to be sad and mourn what the two of you had, but what you had is already gone. A long-term partner should be your partner in sexual adventure! Both of you two will move on to bigger and better things now.

      You did the right thing. Yes it’s sad, but it was a good call on your part. Don’t drag it out any longer.

  6. Also, having sex with somebody you can tell is not that into you? But keeps saying they are, but keeps sexing you like you’re the most boring body alive? It’s like having a lawnmower rolled across your ego. You can get over a breakup, and it’s for sure a normal thing that most people go through, so you get support from friends and family and the culture at large (there are a MILLION movies to watch and songs to listen to you and books to read when your heart is broken). Everybody has advice (not always great), everybody knows how you feel, everybody can tell you that you are normal and this is normal and it will end.

    Being in a relationship with somebody who fucks you like your genitalia are taxes? The creeping terrible feeling that you are unloved, but your partner keeps telling you that you are SO in love (so maybe this is what love feels like)? Being miserable with an awesome partner for reasons you are not allowed to bring up (because your partner avoids it)? That is some terrible stuff to try to get over. It’s hard to talk about. because the stuff that was wrong was never spoken, out loud, with words, so you have to guess at what was wrong, and with a lawnmowered ego, you will be making some mean guesses. There aren’t a million cultural touchstones that tell you that your partner not wanting to have sex with you and not really loving you even though they say they do is normal, you’re normal, and it ends. A breakup is a recipe for “angry at you for a while, then better. Friends?” A prolonged bad relationship that you know needs to end is a recipe for “angry at you forever and ever and ever, whether we break up or stay together.”

    The getting dumped experience is vastly preferable to the I-must-be-disgusting-to-have-sex-with experience. Think of it like a present you’re giving him. Like if your grandparents give you a bond when you’re eight and you are pissed because you wanted actual toys, and then you’re 18 and you’re like, thanks! You are giving him a future-great-sex-bond. He doesn’t want it. He wants you and he will be pissed. But after time, he will cash in that great-sex-bond with somebody who is super excited about him, and it will be an awesome present. Much better than the grimly-resentful-sex-savings-account-with-interest-made-of-secret-bathroom-tears.

  7. “[…] and I know he is the one person in the world who would never hurt me.”

    Am I the only one who read this and had a huge red flag go up in their head?

    I’ve been squarely in the LW’s position, except between an awkward housing situation and emotional immaturity from all parties, it dragged on /way longer/ than it should’ve (years). I won’t drill it in, since the response already does that pretty well — just say from a position of experience “Break up do it break up now it will probably sting for a while but you will regret nothing”.

    It’s scary as hell to make that leap, but this guy is, in fact, /not/ the one person in the world who would never hurt you.

    (also, I’m new commenting here; do I have to be initiated, or do I just pick out one of these snazzy pseudonyms for myself?)

    1. “Not hurting you” isn’t the same as “Being awesome and sexy and someone you look forward to seeing every night (vs. crying in the bathroom and avoiding)”, so right on there.

      And yeah, you can totally pick your own pseudo-military nickname. I’m surprised we don’t get more Rohirrim, honestly.

    2. Part of my thing (extremely similar to this LW) was that I figured I’d never find someone as good as him. Cause everyone says that one person can’t be everything to you, right? I assumed that meant I had to suck it up.

      Finally I said to hell with it. Even if I didn’t find anyone else, at least I’d be free.

      And yes, of course I have not been a lonely bachelor forever.

    3. Two things!
      One is that yeah, he’s not the only nice person in the world; there are plenty who won’t ever hurt you.
      Two is that if you don’t feel comfortable being open and honest with him, then it doesn’t sound like he’s really someone you can count on not hurting you.

  8. LW of Question #117 here – the ill-fitting pants story. My situation was different from yours, obviously, but yours resonated with me. A large part of my resistance to “giving up” on even that short relationship was the feeling that he was into me and I was growing more distant from him, and I owed it to him to try to stay, because he was so nice. I was crying a lot and we were both busy and I was just not interested in sexytimes anymore. The breakup conversation was painful because I felt like I was inflicting this horrible injury on him.

    But I am so much happier now that I’m not dating him! My life is more complicated now for other reasons, and I miss having someone to hold me and cheer me up and be there the way a partner does, but I am better off, and I know it. After writing to the Captain, I found it easier to open up to my friends about this, and realized that there was more love in my life than I had known. And? My body agreed that it was good to move on; my all-but-gone sex drive came back within a week or two.

    So I think the Captain is spot on: it’s best to break up. It was scary and hard for me, but I was not alone, and neither are you: you have the Captain Awkward commentariat behind you!

    Best of luck to you!

  9. Hey there, LetterWriter. Take it from an old married lady who, at 24, was convinced no one would ever love her AT ALL: If you don’t light up when you see your person? If your liver does not quiver with delight when you see that person all dolled up? If your groin is uninterested in groining with that person’s groin? Then you need to do both of you a favor and break up.

    And I’m going to go out even further on the fragile limb of Unasked For Advice and say: decide to be resolutely single for a while. You’ve spent your adult life thus far in a Couple, and could maybe use some time to figure out who YOU are when you’re not reacting to someone else. I mean, you can still date/bang in this time, but approach it more as a “Oo! new people!” thing than a “SOUL MATE SEARCH 2012!”

    Or don’t! If there’s someone your groin AND heart are reaching out to, go for that!

    But definitely break up with this guy. He is great. You are great. You are not great together.

    1. Take it from an old married lady who, at 24, was convinced no one would ever love her AT ALL

      I don’t get the sense that this is LW’s issue, but since it came up, let me just say that staying in a relationship because you’re afraid that you won’t be able to find anyone else who’s into you is a TERRIBLE idea. I learned that lesson after my first-ever relationship went on way too long for that reason.

      Trust me, entering into a second relationship (even if it’s after a long break, at your discretion, as the Commander suggests) does even more to boost your self-confidence than the first one does, because now you know it’s not a fluke. 😛

        1. DUDE, I KNOW, RIGHT? Which was why I brought it up.

          Humanity’s main social condition is insecurity; the little demon that sits in your head and says “But what we have NOW may be as good as it’ll ever beeeeeee! Also you are stupid and ugly and everyone talks mean about you behind your back.”

          When someone loves you, that’s a known. I LOVE knowns! They’re so… known! Comfortable! Reliable! Your demon will tell you that if you leave that love, there may never be someone better, or at all. That demon is a goddamn shitbear made of lies.

          1. In my case, it really was that society surprisingly often makes it seem like the person you should spend your life with just needs to be someone you can tolerate. I had the impression that I would be asking for a lot if I tried to upgrade. Like who am I to want to have an exciting and fulfilling sex life??

      1. I would also add that staying in a relationship you’re unhappy in because you’re afraid you won’t find someone else is a bad idea, even if in the future it turns out you don’t find someone else, at least not for a while. When I was 18, I broke up with my boyfriend of several years after agonizing over it for a while because he hadn’t necessarily done anything wrong (or at least not anything that was new), but I just stopped feeling it. I dated a little bit after that, but for the most part, I’ve been single since then (I’m almost 26 now). While I would in theory be happy seeing someone now, I’m quite happy with my single life, and I absolutely do not regret breaking up with him all those years ago. Being alone can be a scary prospect if you’ve been with someone for a long time, but it’s a lot more fun than being with someone you don’t really have feelings for.

    2. Also, seconding the ‘resolutely single while banging others’ advice. I was the writer of Reader Question 35 and I’ve spent this year doing the being single and finding shiny new people. It’s been mixed, not all of my choices were wise but I’ve learnt a helluva lot. Including that I find people to fuck when I’m horny, when the time would be better spent getting acquainted with a vibrator.

      The SoulMateSearchTM was put on the back burner, and turns out to still not be that interesting. I’m not saying I’m over the guy, but it is SO MUCH BETTER than it was. Do the thing your groin and tears are telling you. I too spent much time avoiding both the guy and the sexey times and crying in the work bathroom in the run up to the break up. Fun, it ain’t. Good luck, know your strength. (((jedi hug)))

  10. In my experience, no trouser trouble = big indicator that it’s terminal. LW, I empathise – I lived with my ex for a year, forcing myself to do the nasty once or twice a month (poor guy!), before I admitted it. I was 24. It felt awful, and I can only imagine how he felt.

    4 years on, we get on, he’s with a really lovely girl (and has been for a year or two now) and I’m with a super-awesome guy (much tearing off of clothes, whoop!). It may get worse to start with, but it definitely gets better. Promise. Swear on the Queen etc.

    Good luck! x

  11. Never let anyone convince you that “it’s normal” for couples to lose interest with each other after time has passed. I’ve been rolling in the hay with the same guy for . . . 9 years now, and we still can’t wait to get into bed with each other each night.

    And it’s not that I don’t have experience with other guys. Because I do. Hoo-boy. And back then, I used to think that people who claimed, “My husband is my best friend!” and “The sex just keeps getting better and better!” were faking it or showing off or trying to get attention or whatever, and I would roll my eyes at their innocence because I was MATURE and knew that real love always fades into a comfortable “mellow” relationship that only truly experienced intelligent adults know how to appreciate….

    So anyways, I was wrong about that. Very wrong.

    But eventually I got better, and now I go around saying, “My husband is my best friend!” and “The sex just keeps getting better and better!”, and hope that other people will listen better than I did and not settle for anything less than awesome.

  12. Staying with someone you do not want to be with is not a kindness. It is actually kind of cruel. Not only does it deprive them of the opportunity to find someone who absolutely adores them (and wants to have sex with them) it says you doubt their ability to find that with someone else, as if you’re the only person in the world who, due to your unique powers of discernment, can tell how great he is. (See how inside-out egotistial that is? You won’t be destroyed by being without him, but he will at being without you?) Set the man free. Have faith. If he really is that great, he will find someone who thinks so, too, AND wants to have sex with him.

    He will be better off with her than with someone who’s just going through the motions, either dooming him to an entire lifetime without real, reciprocated passion, or just delaying the breakup ’til it hurts more because he’s invested more in it.

    And you: stop second-guessing yourself and just say “I was so young when we met, I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted, and now that I’m shaping up into more of my own person I realize he’s not quite it for me. Great guy and all, but not THE great guy for me. That’s not awful. It’s the way things go sometimes.

  13. Oh Forsyte Saga! I almost feel sorry for Soames, except for that whole [spoiler alert!] raping thing he does eventually.

    But SRSLY, break up. I tried to break up with my first boyfriend who was also my best friend, etc. twice and then immediately took it back because I was terrified of being without him (codependency issues), but I wish I’d gone through with it because the several more months we were together were kind of just shitty and miserable until he finally broke up with me, thank god.

  14. There is nothing you can do here to prevent your boyfriend from getting hurt. You understand that leaving him will hurt him, which is one of the reasons you haven’t done so yet. You understand that staying with him will hurt him (or at least, hopefully now that you’ve read the captain’s advice and the commenter’s additions, you do).

    Actually, there’s no way for you to avoid going through pain either. Breaking up your boyfriend is going to be extremely hard. Staying with him, now that you no longer want to have sex with him will, in the long run, be awful. Hell, you’re already crying all the time.

    So right now you’re stuck in this middle ground between the two choices, and you’re hoping there’s some third path you can find that won’t have a devastating impact on your life and the life of someone you love. There isn’t.

    This is the uncomfortable fact running through everything the Captain and the commenters have been saying, so I thought I’d just lay it out there explicitly.

    If you’re able to just charge forward and accept that the next $n months are going to suck, it will free you to make the decision that will ultimately be better for all involved in the $n+1st month. And, as an added bonus, just making the decision, and getting out of that in-between space, will likely bring you some relief.

    1. “you’re hoping there’s some third path you can find that won’t have a devastating impact on your life and the life of someone you love…” THIS – so true.

      It WILL be hard initially adjusting to being out of a relationship and being “alone”, but you will come to relish it and (if you are like me) feel empowered by your experience. You’re not in an easy position, but there really is only one way out: to break up with him. And when you do it, you will realise how much you have learned and how much better you are. Good luck!

  15. Just wanted to chime in from the perspective of a guy who’s been on the being-dumped side of a similar situation:

    You should break up with him, especially because there is no telling what joys the future will hold for each of you (while it’s obvious that the current course will make both of you progressively more miserable.) When my girlfriend broke up with me last year, I was pretty devastated — but we remained extremely close.

    If he is truly your best friend, he will see you and your needs for who you are and what they are. That old saying “if you love something, set it free” could not be more true. I was my ex-girlfriend’s first everything too, and I knew that whatever efforts I made to try to persuade her otherwise would only make her feel more trapped.

    Give yourself time and space to let yourself find your way through life — you don’t need all the answers now. You’ll miss him a lot, he’ll miss you a lot. It’s a hard decision to make, but I think after you’ve made it you’ll realize it was the right call, and that will give you the strength you need to deal with whatever comes your way.

  16. Oh dear god reading this letter was like reading a letter from myself at 18. I didn’t break up with him until I was nearly 20. Can you say clusterfuck? Yes, I think you can.

    LW, please please please break up with this guy. Because it is done, and that is a good enough reason. If you wait for reasons other than “its done” to end a relationship THEY WILL PRESENT THEMSELVES TO YOU and everything will be so, so much worse. I could have saved myself so much drama and toxicity if I had only broken up with my first boyfriend (who was my first everything – including kissing – and my best friend and someone I loved and loved to be around and was fun and funny and amazing) when it was done. But I didn’t, and it was the worst. Memories of my first love are filled with hate and hurt and bitterness. Do not be me.


  17. I have to say, one of the many, many reasons I enjoy reading this blog are the indirect period drama miniseries recommendations. I would never have found Downton Abbey without this place. Forsyte Saga is next!

      1. If actually really enjoyed the first Forsyte Saga from 1967, the miniseries that spawned what would eventually become Masterpiece Theater. It’s 26 episodes! Only drawback, I think I had to watch it on VHS tape borrowed from the library, but that was several years ago so it might be on DVD by now,

  18. This situation resonated with me so much that I needed to comment. I married, and later divorced, a man who I loved but always knew wasn’t quite right for me. I always felt like maybe things would settle in for me, and there was just never anything about our relationship that I thought was bad enough to justify breaking this perfectly nice guy’s heart over.

    Well, now I know that I don’t need an excuse or a justification to break up with someone. Not feeling *it* anymore is a plenty good reason. LW, please consider this: breaking up will hurt both of you, yes, but not as much as if you put it off until you can’t take it anymore.

    I’m sure that this is one of the unfortunate effects of the way women are socialized to caretake men’s feelings at any cost. Why must we think, ‘I can’t leave a relationship that’s no longer meeting my needs because it will hurt his feelings?’

    Thanks to the letter writer and everyone else who’s commented for helping me feel like I’m not the only one who’s been there.

    1. I really wish I had realized that the vow I’d made at the altar was less important than helping myself and my (now ex-) wife discover the lives we should have been living after marriage. I spent 8 years “keeping a promise” that had out lived its promise and I bet my ex wishes as much as I do to have a do-over on those years.

      “This isn’t working for me” is a good and fine reason to end a marriage as well.

  19. Worth keeping in mind: in almost all cases this will end your best-buddydom. Of course, so will hanging around and having sex that you’re not into while he senses it and tries to fix it and the fixing it turns you off more and around and around. It’s just something to keep in mind and prepare yourself for: your super-closeness, think-as-one, finish-each-other’s-stories or whatever form this being your primary relationship takes is going to go too. The kind of friends you may be later is much less likely to be that-one-person-who-is-on-my-team-100% friends and more like, well, normal friends who are in touch sometimes.

    This is worth anticipating, so that you know that you’re going to be grieving it. The dumper usually doesn’t get a lot of sympathy for this aspect, so see what you can do about a support network or simple kindnesses to yourself from people/communities who for whatever reason aren’t going to be spending most of their energy feeling sorry for him.

    Also, relying on each other in your grief is a common rookie breaker-uper mistake. The failure mode is that one of you (probably you, by the sound of it) gets involved with someone new and suddenly has a whole lot less time and maybe not a lot of empathy either for the continuing trudging sadness of the other. And then you basically have a second breakup, only meaner and more public. Don’t discuss your grief with him and require that he gets support from other sources than you.

    1. Oh, this. I had a brief, intense, disastrous relationship with one of my best friends when I was eighteen, and we remained dysfunctionally codependent for almost a year before the friend-breakup happened. We didn’t speak for six months, which for me was a more emotionally harrowing time than the breakup breakup, and as a result the whole mess took about three years to resolve itself.

      Take a break from each other. Communicate, by all means – say “as much as I still care about you, I think we need to go our separate ways until we’ve both come to terms with this” or words to that effect – but a it’s called a break-up for a reason, and one of those reasons is that you need to re-establish yourselves as two single people rather than two halves of a couple before you can begin to relate to each other as two single people rather than two halves of a couple.

      (I used to comment here under Rei, but I started to feel left out with all the pseudo-military handles popping up.)

      1. I’ve seen so many romantic-breakups that have a three-to-six-months later even worse still-best-friends-breakup that I have developed a special insincere smile for “but we’re still each other’s best friend!” People are starting to notice :-/

  20. LW here.

    i want to thank the Captain and everyone for their responses. You guys are making me cry, because I know you’re right and I have to do this thing I am dreading, but also because it’s making me feel so much less alone.

    Our cultural narrative regarding breakups seems to consist of mainly two situations: 1) Person A is a Big Mean Awful person; you are totally justified in breaking up with him! Enjoy your empowerment, or 2) Person A is a totally wonderful sweetheart of a person! You are a Big Mean Awful Person for wanting to break up with them and as a result you will be sad and lonely and unhappy for the rest of your life, as you deserve.

    Situation 1 obviously does not apply to me, which would leave me with Situation 2. As someone with (surprise!) depression and self esteem issues, knowing that, according to The Narrative, I am doomed to spend the rest of my life hating myself and my life is a hard and bitter pill to swallow. Even though when it’s laid out like that I know it’s too ridiculously simple to be true, it’s still hard to shake that programming. It’s also frightening to give up my safe harbor for Waters Unknown.

    I’ll go back through later and reply to other comments but I wanted to leave this here to say: thank you for making me feel less alone and that I’m not weird for feeling this way. Knowing that other people have been here and still came out the other side happy and well adjusted is giving me hope, which previously I didn’t have.

    Thank you. So much.

  21. LW, I was in the same situation; 22 years old and worried that my older boyfriend of four years would break if I stopped loving him. It started with not wanting to have sex, moved on to not wanting kissing (because of the guilt I felt about not wanting to have sex) and progressed to not wanting to hear him talk any more. He was my best and closest friend. Nobody else was that kind to me! Nobody else loved me that much! I kept rationalizing it, too: “He’s really depressed right now, and if I break up with him, he’ll bomb that exam. And he hasn’t done anything wrong! Maybe I’m broken. He should break up with me.”

    Three months later, “He’s going through a lot right now, with work stuff. If I break up with him, he might get fired. God, this sucks. I wish he’d just break up with me. But he’s too nice to.”

    Three months later, “I’m not sure why we’re together any more. Maybe it will come to me in three months! Besides, with the way I’m feeling, I’m sure nobody will ever touch me again.”

    Long story short, when I met the Most Awesome Guy in My Version of the World, I cheated on my boyfriend. It was amazing how happy, relaxed, joyful and sexy I felt with one man, while with my boyfriend I felt miserable, guilty, sexless and bored. For me, it took a model of a healthy, happy, sexy relationship to euthanize the old one. I don’t recommend it; the fallout was prolonged and stupid, and continues even now that I’ve married Awesome Guy. Instead of seeing him as the Most Awesome Guy That I Just Love So Much (Who Incidentally Happened To Be The Guy Who Broke The Cycle With The Depressive Sexless Boyfriend), family and friends still see him as the Cheating Homewrecker Boy and keep questioning why I married him. My husband is, without doubt, nicer, stronger, sexier and more mature than any other partner I’ve had. But if I had done the brave thing, the right thing, when I started having those feelings of doubt about my relationship, then I would have been so much happier, and my lovely relationship would sit so much easier with my family.

    Oh, and my sweet kind perfect lovely ex-boyfriend went kind of crazy and attempted to stalk me, believing that since I had kept up such a convincing facade of happiness during the last months, I had clearly been brainwashed by this new boy, or something.

    tl;dr: Do it now. It’s not worth living with that kind of deceit and unhappiness in your life.

  22. Yah I guess you could break up. Obviously your passion has fizzled. Generally people don’t want to fuck their best friends 🙂 Maybe you are just craving some variety, and that’s fine, break up.

    But I think if you really want to own your feelings you should do some self – analysis to keep this from happening again. What happened to your passion? It just got up and left one day? Maybe he’s bad in bed or the sex is too vanilla, etc. I think you owe it to yourself to actually find a reason for the loss of passion, instead of “I just don’t feel it anymore — shrug, bye.”

    1. I think you owe it to yourself to actually find a reason for the loss of passion

      Sure, worth thinking about after the fact, as the Cap’n says. But it’s absolutely not worth enduring more misery in an unhappy relationship just because you’re not 100% aware of why your emotions are what they are and where they’re coming from. You’re not required to be aware of that at all times. You’re feeling what you’re feeling, whatever the reason.

      1. Yeah, I feel this is akin to saying “I have a headache, but I should wait to take advil because what if it’s a brain tumor?!” Okay, it is POSSIBLE that something is deeply wrong with your head, but if you don’t have any indications that it’s disastrous, just take the advil first and then call your doctor. In this case, the advil is the breakup and the doctor is your feelings. Dr. Feelings.

        [p.s. If you are experiencing the worst headache of your life, you should definitely go to the doctor! I feel obligated to post a disclaimer even though it has no metaphorical value.]

        1. First time commenting!

          Sweet Machine, it totally does have metaphorical value! I am metaphorically experiencing the worst headache of my life, and I literally went to the doctor.

          I had the Depo birth control shot in September, and I’ve had some really severe, long lasting side effects. My entire sex drive (which was pretty rad before the shot, let me tell you) slowly drained away and I found myself completely grossed out by anything remotely sexual, even kissing. It’s been really rough, especially since some of the other side effects have been stuff like painful headaches, anger issues, and depression.

          But the first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t attracted to my boyfriend anymore. I hung on a lot longer than I should have, making myself miserable because I knew it wasn’t “my fault” and I shouldn’t break up with him because he hadn’t done anything wrong, and it was just the drug making me feel that way. But I realized that even if I knew WHY I was feeling that way, it didn’t change the way I was feeling, and it didn’t change the fact that I was totally miserable.

          So, I’m sure this probably isn’t all that relevant to the Letter Writer, but it is something to consider for anybody who sees a major change in their sex drive. It could be something like what’s going on with me, and it could need medical attention right away.

          Not to sound paranoid or anything.

          Oh wait, mild paranoia is one of my other side effects. Sorry guys.

  23. I know that if I break up with him, I would be emotionally slaughtering him.

    This sentence is something that I said to myself more than once during my first-everything relationship that lasted five years. Often with a side of “relationships take work and there are ups and downs”. He made me feel like he needed me and would be permanently devastated if I broke up during one of the times that was very draining on me. And you know how it ended? Out of nowhere, when I was in another country, he called and said that we were looking for different things and he wasn’t sure he was in love with me and things hadn’t felt right to him for a year. And just like that I was dumped and confused and insecure, because I had been afraid to break up with him and afraid to take that step. Things were so good, but they weren’t ever going to really click in a for-life sort of way as much as we wanted them to.

    He will be okay. You will be okay. You will probably not be friends for a while, but you might be later if you both still want to. You might not.

    I know that for me, even after most of a year being single it feels like I missed out on my chance at marriage/domestic home life (at 22! it’s truly ridiculous when I think about it). We started dating in high school and a lot of my ways of existing as an adult (well, semi-adult) and sexual person were really tied up in that relationship. After a most of a year I still sometimes struggle with the idea that I’m dwelling too much on this because it was my first-everything and if I wasn’t such a silly overattached overemotional girl I’d be more over it than I am (a train of thought that started after one week) and we’d be able to be friends. But frankly it’s not something I think I could handle honestly still if we were close friends, and it turns out that I’m not actually interested in being acquaintance-friends. So no contact. That’s okay with me right now.

    Not to make it all about me, just maybe hearing a similar story will help.

  24. There is a big red flag in this for me – both in the letter and the advice. Maybe I missed it above where this was asked and answered, but… have you talked to your boyfriend about any of this?

    It may well be that you can’t save this relationship. If that’s the case you should absolutely break up cleanly and move on. But I would guess that a very, very high percentage of relationships that last longer than four years are going to go through something like you’re experiencing. I know my marriage has had stretches of this, with either person in the role you’re in now. I in fact broke up with my wife after we had been together about three years (before we were married,) and I could have written a letter very much like this at that time.

    The only way to find out if problems like this are solvable is to talk about them openly in a safe environment. If you don’t have that in your relationship at this point, then it’s time to go. But if you do have it, take advantage. Say what’s on your mind. You may find that simply unburdening yourself of these thoughts might help you see more clearly what you should do.

    1. You may have missed this bit: “Finally, last week, my boyfriend called me and asked what was going on. I broke down and told him I wasn’t sure I loved him as a boyfriend anymore and asked for a few days to think things over. Understandably, he was devastated.”

  25. Situation 2 (“You are a Big Mean Awful Person”) absolutely does not apply to you. I know how you feel, I was in the same position a few months ago. Its scary and you tell yourself that maybe you will never find another relationship like this, or anyone who loves you in the same way again. This is not true! The fact is if you feel the way you describe it is as good as over, but you need to man up and make it official. Its not easy and you will feel very guilty because you feel like you’re harming the person you care for the most in the whole world, the person you can totally rely on and trust. But it needs to be done, its better for both of you and in time hopefully your other half will come to see that way too. And in few months time you will look back on this and although you’ll miss the times you had together the main emotion you will feel is RELIEF at being set free of what had been worrying you for so long. You will meet someone else who you are absolutely mad for (sounds like you might have already..?) and then you will know you’ve done the right thing.

  26. Typical mentality of modern day western women treating a man as an accessory. This pair of shoes is kinda dull and dingy and doesn’t exite “me” anymore. I can do better. So your “new shoes” are now all shiny and exciting, for now at least. This “new” accessory will now need to maintain it’s “shinyness” plus it’ll have to compare better to the old shoes at all times. Eventually you’ll want even “better shoes” if the opportunity should present itself as exciting and new. Now your 3rd pair of “new shoes” will have to not only continually maintain it’s “shiny new excitement” but also compare to all the good points of your first 2 pair of shoes.

    Every time you “break up” and start a “new” relationship your ability to form a lasting relationship drops. Divorce is over 51% and the rate of marriage is dropping to almost nothing. We have data of raw numbers over the last 40 years. A woman who marries having only 1 sexual partner, (that person) has a 95% chance of staying in that lasting relationship. At 2 partners it drops to 57%. At 5 partners 50%. More than that it becomes almost impossible for a woman to form a lasting relationship.

    With all the “advice” columns for women why isn’t the opposite the case?

    1. NWOSlave! Congratulations on getting permanently banned from here your first time out, because I think you are completely full of misogyny and made of bullshit, and we’re not going to give you the attention you are used to over at Manboobz. You are CENSORED. I am CENSORING YOU with my CENSORING POWERS.

      Your advice basically boils down to “Women aren’t allowed to break up with people.” This is wrong.

      The ability to form relationships is not finite. Relationships with different people are different from each other, and how one relationship goes is not a predictor of how the next one goes.

      Go be wrong somewhere else.

      1. I would kiss you on the mouth for your CENSORSHIP line, but that would reduce your chances of forming a relationship with future kissing partners by at least 25%.

        LW: even if it were indeed the case that everytime you broke up with someone it made it harder to be with the next person you dated, that still wouldn’t be a reason to stay with someone you’re not into anymore. One of the hardest things about deciding whether to break up with someone is focusing on what matters: the relationship you’re in. Not the one you fear you’ll never find if you let this guy go, and not the one you were in when you first started dating this guy that no longer feels the same. If your relationship now is not one that you want to be in, no amount of “We’ve been through everything together! I’ll never find another guy this good!” will make the right-now fulfilling.

        The other hardest thing is figuring out whether things now are a rough patch you can overcome or a more permanent not-so-awesome state. And honestly, there’s rarely a clear line between the two, and a lot of it depends on how you and your partner feel about it. If you two both agree that this is still the relationship you want and that some changes can be made to get back on track, maybe you can — ruts do develop, relationships do get stale, and if you’re anything like me, your libido can be really tied to how you feel emotionally about the relationship as a whole. But if it’s been months of thinking this isn’t right for you, then it’s pretty likely this is a more permanent change of heart. And more importantly, it sounds like you don’t think it’s a temporary rough patch, in which case it’s not a temporary rough patch. How you feel is what matters here, and you can’t trick or guilt yourself into making things work if you really don’t think the relationship is fixable.

        It will hurt. You will cry. But in exchange for a few weeks or a few months of things being sad, you will both get to be free of a relationship that one of the participants doesn’t want to be in. That’s a pretty good trade.

        1. I don’t have David’s tolerance for tedious motherfuckers who are wrong about everything, as in he has a lot of that and I have zero of it.

          It’s not an automatic dumping any time the relationship has problems, but “sad crying panic attacks in bathroom” and “does not want to kiss or touch” mean we’ve probably moved past the “let’s talk this through and have more date nights!” stage of working on the relationship.

          Women are so pressured to be in a relationship, to stay in a relationship, to make relationships work, to derive self-worth from staying in a relationship, to pretend that sex doesn’t matter or that they are somehow less sexual, so I maybe overemphasize the “Nope! Obey your groin!” stuff here as a counter-balance, but I’m not apologizing and I’m definitely not apologizing to Manboobz Top Troll of the 2011.

          1. Shorter NWOslave: Ladies, if you’re not happy in your relationship, get over it, ’cause you’re not there to be happy, you’re there ’cause a man needs a vagina around.

            But ultimately, yeah, engaging NWOslave is pretty pointless. Like many doodtrolls on feminist blogs, he’s not actually challenging or insightful. He just repeats the same kind of shit over and over and makes everyone waste their time repeating Feminism 101 at him.

      2. Pfft, I love that he’s throwing out divorce statistics. Because it’s not as if breaking off a sexless, emotionally wrought relationship before the marriage stage would prevent another divorce… oh wait. That is pretty much exactly what it would do.

        Thanks for banning him, Cap’n, thereby preserving the sanctity and sanity of this place. o7

          1. Aha, the salute smiley is far more fun than it has any right to be. It’s also amusingly appropriate in the land of pseudo-military handles! o7

    2. Lulz, according to this my husband should have been tossed ages ago. I’m polyamorous. I still come home to my sweetie, because he is fabulous and I adore him.

      Also, ZOMG my possibly almost up to 20 (I’m not really counting any more) sexual partners means I AM INCAPABLE OF INTERACTING MEANINGFULLY!!!!

      Yeah I know you’re banned and whatnot, but it’s pretty good bait, it’s so damn dumb.

    3. I don’t understand this comment. Maybe if you used the word “shoes” 300 more times it would make sense to my lady brain.

    4. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again Slavey: your ass is not a valid source of information.

  27. After reading through everyone’s comments and everything, it really needs to be said that breaking up with someone is OKAY. And being broken up with is OKAY.

    Sure, it may fucking suck and hurt horribly, but it’s OKAY. We all get through it, eventually, and learn from it (well hopefully), and it is Not The End Of The World.

  28. I was really inspired by this post. Same situation for me, I had been with my ex for near 5 years and since I was 17. It took me 4 or 5 months to realize that our relationship should be coming to an end as I noticed that I tried to avoid sex or kissing him. I became more and more frustrated with him and snappy and it hit me one day that it wasn’t his fault I was becoming like this, but the fact that in my heart I no longer wanted to be in a relationship with him and was projecting my frustrated feelings onto him.

    He was a lovely person, kind, best friend and truly a great man, but the ‘fizzle’ and sexual connection had gone. I was getting feelings for another guy and found myself checking out other men. This was why even though it was so hard for me I decided that I had to take the PLUNGE and break up with him.

    It is kinder to be honest to someone and let them be free to find someone who wants to love him and be in a true loving relationship instead of being with a girl that put on a facade everyday and avoiding interaction with them.

    It took me a month to pluck up the courage to do the deed, and I WAS TERRIFIED. I had been with this person for 5 years, he was my first love, first screw. He knew me and my weird habits. Everyday leading up to the breakup I was in tears, convinced no one else would want me, that I was going to be alone, I was going to be the single one out of my friend circle.

    Then one evening after work I did the deed, I had to do it by phone as I was working abroad and I did not have the money to fly home to do it by face, I was crying, my brain was a mess but somehow in that 10 minute phone call I managed to tell him that I just didn’t love him enough anymore to be in a relationship, I told him that he didn’t do anything wrong but just that our relationship had grown apart and we had both grown as people. I then said thankyou for all the good memories and that I hadn’t regretted any of our time together during the good times. Then that was it. Then I cried my eyes out for about 2 days, but immediately it felt as though a weight has been lifted. He was of course devastated and I heard from a friend that he was in a bad way for a while, but now he has found someone and in a new relationship.

    Now 6 months later I would describe myself as happily single, It has taken me about 4 months for all the stress and sadness to leave. Because even though I was no longer attracted to my ex he was still my best friend. I called this the ‘mourning’ period because it is like someone has died and gone from your life.
    I did have very down days, and it takes a lot of getting used to doing things by yourself that you might have done as a couple. But I got by through making plans with friends and without sounding cliche ‘taking up new hobbies’. I seriously did start running, German lessons and zumba- not to meet a man, but just to get out and about and meet new people and enjoy doing things for myself.

    I am actually enjoying being by myself for a while after being with someone for 5 years. Of course there are times when I wish I was with a boyfriend to do things with and sometimes I do feel pangs of jealousy when I see loved up couples. Yet I am not actively looking for a relationship right now as I still don’t think I am ready for one just yet, but I try to go out and meet new people a lot of the time, have fun and just be comfortable in my own skin. However I did have a one night thing with a hot guy and it felt great to have sex and to actually feel sexually attracted to someone again, (even if it was a bit odd in places) without feeling guilty about it.

    So I know this post reply is a bit late, but it would be interesting to see if ‘Girl Who Doesn’t Know What The Heart Wants’ dumped her boyfriend or not.

    And it was no easy ride and you will both hurt from the breakup but I do not regret doing the deed. I was not a bad person and he was not a bad person it’s just that my deep in my heart I knew I was going to have to break his for any good to come out of the situation.

    Best of luck and be strong.

  29. Late to the realms of advice… I’ve been dumped. It sucked. All things being equal, better to be dumped than not. I’ve stuck with some really unhealthy relationships too, and that was no good for either of us.

  30. Captain awkward is a bit of a heartless bastard in this case isn’t he/she? They deserve to be put in ‘Girl who doesn’t know…’ and her boyfriend’s position and see if they could be quite so frank about their own relationship. It isn’t all cut and dry you know…and you can’t just turn off your feelings like a tap…

    1. Heartless bastard! I love it!

      Do you really want to keep dating someone who “cries in the bathroom” at the thought of having sex with you?

      I have walked a mile or two in the “all attraction is gone” shoes and in every case we should have broken up much, much sooner.

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