Hello Captain Awkward and Crew,
I seem to have gotten myself in a situation that i can’t get myself out of. I (woman long out of high school, mature and self supportive in all areas except this one) have been with the same guy for about 8 years now. Having read most of your column for advice, he’s probably a classic Darth Vader. We met at work, i found out after 3 years that he was married, plus had another girl friend on the side. We broke up, but it didn’t stick, he promised he would change. Two years later it actually ended up impacting my job (long, convoluted story), we broke up again, it didn’t stick, he promised he would change… then he moved away, but we’re still in a LDR on the weekends. In all this time, he promises a lot of things, but it never happens.
But i can’t seem to make a breakup stick. The sex is great (most of the time), and he knows exactly what to say to make me see the good in him. He’s also the only dude that’s ever not gotten threatened by my independence/high earning job/future plans… So maybe i think he’s the only one who will ever want me?
What do i owe him after 8 years? i feel like i should explain to him how what he’s doing is wrong, and maybe stay friends to help him through it? Do i explain that to him in person? Do I break up via text and then leave? This is all going to come as a shock to him, i think. I’ve mentioned i’m not happy, but he just promises he’ll change some more… i guess i don’t believe him anymore? Is there a script i should be using?
–“I want to be Luke,not the Emperor”
Darth will tell you that you owe him an in-person breakup where you can really talk things through. That’s because in person, Darth can suggest that you fuck one last time, and oh look, you forgot to break up….again!
I will tell you that an email or text or phone call is just fine – the medium doesn’t really matter, and it’s a good idea to deliver the news in a way that protects you from a protracted interaction with him.
The message is basic and you already know what it is. “Darth, I’ve decided to end our relationship. I’d like to make this a clean break, so please don’t contact me again.”
Even more important is your follow-through. First step is blocking his phone number and blocking him on all text/email/messaging/social media platforms. When Darth inevitably sends you that heartfelt letter full of all the promises you most wish he would say, or when he just “happens” to be in your neighborhood and says “I need to see you” in that husky voice full of need and sex, you’ve got to put that letter in a box and not dwell on it and you’ve got to turn down the dramatic rain-kissing scene he’s dangling in front of you. You’ve always had the power to say “Nope! No more!” but this time you’ve got to use it. Even more importantly, you’ve got to learn to ignore him and to meet his attempts to get your attention with silence, no matter what he says or does. He will take “Leave me alone!” and “I told you it’s over” as openings for continued interaction. The compassion you feel for him, the kind person you are, a person who doesn’t just cut people off with no explanation – those things are a trap that he will use to hold your attention and your time. The only way to avoid the trap is to cut off that attention and that time and starve the feelings out.
It’s hard. You’ve been addicted to this dude and his drama and his particular brand of sexmagic for 8 YEARS. It’s going to take time for you to refill the space he took up in your life. There are some lonely times ahead, when there is no outlet for that funny thing you observed that you know he would understand in a flash if you just texted it to him, when there is no reliable and interesting sex planned for the weekend. Enormous freedom and enormous grief await you. You’ve been so occupied with The Problem of Darth, putting so much mental and emotional energy toward chewing it over and trying to solve him. How light you might feel once you are no longer trying to solve that problem? What else in your life might benefit from that attention and energy that used to belong to him? But also, how might you grieve for the time you can never get back?
Things that might help the weird, empty time pass more easily:
- A journal, for you to write it all down.
- A project, for you to throw yourself into.
- Being very nice and gentle to yourself (regular meals, enough sleep, seeking out people who are kind to you, avoiding people who sap your energy).
- Exercise, regular massages, excellent showers and baths, snuggling with a pet – What are pleasurable ways to inhabit your body that aren’t about Darth?
- A sympathetic ear, like a counselor, to tell the story to, especially when grief and anger seem overwhelming.
- The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, when thoughts of Darth overwhelm you.
- This statistically accurate love song, for when you need to torpedo the TOTAL BULLSHIT that Darth and your jerkbrain spun together about how you are unloveable except by unreliable people who cheat on their wives and string you along for years.
- The Siren Song, as armor against more men like Darth and a reminder that you are wiser now.
- Love after Love, the best poem about emptiness and possibility after a breakup.
You owe Darth the news of your decision to end the relationship, however you choose to deliver it to him. That’s all. It’s done as soon as you say it is.
You owe yourself…everything. Everything that is good and kind and wonderful. Your life is waiting for you.