#839: “What do I owe Darth?”

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.




195 thoughts on “#839: “What do I owe Darth?”

  1. Oh my GOD op he is NOT the only man in the world who will ever want you PLEASE don’t think that!!!! I have to wonder if that’s something he told you bc believe me there’s plenty of ppl excited to be with a successful person with plans for the future. Good luck getting this guy out of your life.

    1. ABSOLUTELY! That line made my heart hurt. There are plenty of potential partners out there who would love and embrace LW’s success and independence. 🙂 Get it, Gurl! You got this!

      1. Right, I came here ONLY to say this!
        >”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?”
        That first sentence means you are AWESOME and GREAT and FULL OF INSPIRATION and even full of ACTUAL SUCCESS — anyone who is happy for others’ successes would be THRILLED to hang with you. And anyone who’s resentful and threatened by others’ successes is not a great fit for you, because, I mean, ugh. If they have their own issues, that’s one thing, but to make you feel like the problem is you: That is Not. On.
        He took your wonderful amazing qualities and somehow turned them into something that makes you feel like nobody will ever love or want you? I am so angry at him!!!

        Also: You can do it. It will hurt like absolute f***ing hell (ask me how I know!) but you are amazing and you will come through the other side and your life will be more wonderful than you can imagine.

        1. I came here to add to the people saying that the right dudes are out there who either 1) don’t care about your job paying more than theirs or 2) think it’s awesome that you’re ambitious and support yourself! I’m a corporate-world chick dating a service-oriented dude who works in a non-profit, and the career disparity works pretty well for us so far. And even if it someday doesn’t, I’ll find another dude who appreciates my independent streak.

          1. Works for us! 22 years ago my hubs took off work to care for our 2 infant daughters. Some of the best years of our lives. Making a good living opens a woman’s dating pool versus narrowing it.

          2. Chiming in to agree. The fact that I make more money than my husband has never even come up between us because it’s a complete non-issue. Plus it’s nobody’s business what you earn unless you decide to tell them.

    2. OP, you owe yourself freedom from this person. You’re free of Darth. Give him one last bit of trust: Trust him to live his life without you. He is an adult and will survive. This is not a child or a puppy who will not be able to feed and cloth himself. Trust yourself to be able to live without being a hero to this person. You’re a hero to yourself and I’m so proud of you for writing this letter! ❤

    3. Right? LW, let me tell you a story about last night.

      I’m a bartender right now. Monday nights are not exactly crazy, so I have plenty of time to talk to customers. Dude comes in, sits down, is just hanging out and super chill. We start talking and he’s telling us about this woman he’s seeing and how he thinks he needs to step it up with her, and what would be a good thing to cook if he were to invite her over. So we’re throwing ideas around and he starts talking about her and the things he finds so attractive about her, and he just kind of sat there in awe of her for a while. “She works her butt off every day then wakes up early to work out and volunteer before work. She is smart – she’s SO smart – and she reads all the time. We’re actually talking about a book right now. She’s just…she’s so much better than me, and I don’t know what she sees in me, but I’m glad she does!”

      These dudes are not just out there, they’re literally all around you. They’re in a bar on a Monday night asking advice on how to impress women that they respect and admire – women who are just like you! – and when you’ve disentangled yourself from this and let yourself heal, you can find one, too (if you want one). You’ll also be able to reassure yourself that if they’re NOT that, that you can walk away and be okay.

      Take care of yourself in the next several months, but know that this does not have to be something you worry about.

    4. My dad told me on the first day at uni, that I should think again about doing a science degree, because “if men thought I was cleverer than then, they wouldn’t want to marry me”, and then where would I be? Zomg, think about the insecure menz you haven’t met yet! Plan your life for them! Be small! Be neat! Fit into the spaces assigned to you! Don’t be ambitious for your life! Take what you’re given, don’t think about asking for more!

      I got married a few years ago, to an amazing guy. I met him while working at my fancy science job that I got with my scary science degrees. I earned more than him then, I earn way more than him now. He followed me halfway across the country so I could develop my awesome career. I support him so he can develop his brilliantly creative business. My success is his success, his is mine. Partners 4 lyfe, and all that.

      These guys are out there, but you can’t see them because Darth is in your way, telling you to s. There are guys who want to see you succeed, that want your independence and drive, that want to see you become the you you want to be. But Darth is stood there in his all-encompassing sexy billowing cloak of drama. Apply some of the principles of your career to your love life – don’t stay in a love/work situation that’s limiting your potential and not giving you what you need. Don’t settle for less, just because you’re not certain

  2. If he wanted you, he’d be with you. But, he hasn’t done it. You’ve spent 8 years proving that you can settle for less. Please take the Captain’s awesome advice, and settle for more. xoxoxoxo

    1. This. Thisity this this thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

      Better fabulously alone than with someone who would convince you that they might be the only one who would want you when they keep showing you that they actually don’t, at all. Not in any meaningful way.

      Better fabulously alone than with someone who would merrily help you convince yourself that they might be the only one who would want you when they keep showing you that they actually don’t, at all. Not in any meaningful way.

      Better to be fabulously alone and available for an great one who really does want you and value you when they come along.

      And honestly, better to be miserably alone than either of those first two.

      You don’t owe him anything. Give him the tools to pry himself out of your bad graces and he will rules lawyer his way back in. Dump him. Block him. Go have a bath and cry and then go about being your fantastic, independent, worthy self.

  3. I normally give the sideeye to people who break up over email or social media, but I finally had to break up with one guy over email because it was just like the Captain describes: When we were in person, he could be very…persuasive. It was only when I was alone that I was myself and realized this couldn’t go on.

    1. I think it’s way past time to accept that if most of your interaction with someone takes place over phone, email, or social media, it’s a legitimate venue for all kinds of relationship talks, including the one where you end it. 🙂 Does it suck? Sure. Is it going to suck any less in person? Well, from the perspective of someone who has been broken up with in most of the possible ways, no, it really doesn’t suck less in person. And sometimes more! 😀

      1. I particularly feel that breaking up through some kind of remote channel (text, e-mail) is very acceptable in this case because this isn’t a “talk” at all, it isn’t a discussion or a conversation. This is an announcement. The LW is informing Darth of a decision she’s made. Darth’s input is not required.

        1. Absolutely–but I also think it’s time to change that cultural narrative that breaking up in some way that isn’t in person means that onlookers get to “normally sideeye” you unless they know that you have a “good reason”. Most of the time you’re not going to know if someone has a good reason for breaking up not in person, so there’s just a lot of pointless judging happening from people who want to feel superior because thus far they have only dated local people who don’t turn out to be threatening bags of dicks.

          Date a lot of people long distance–or a lot of people in general–and you figure out super quickly that “only breaking up in person” is some bullshit. 🙂

          1. Yeah, if it’s a long distance relationship, email/social media should be acceptable. My relationship was local, but I would have preferred the phone to the email I got. I just felt really disrespected when I received it, although I think in person would have been a nightmare.

          2. I think it always has to be left up to the discretion of the person doing the breaking up, because they know what’s best for them. Sometimes that leaves those of us being broken up with feeling disrespected, but I think there’s a difference between actual disrespect and a downgrading of the level of concern toward us on the part of the person breaking up with us. I know that I have not dealt particularly well with that distinction in the past, but it’s important to realize that when you decide to break up with someone, of course you prioritize your own needs. Of course you are not as concerned about the other person as you were when you were in a relationship with them. That may not be comfortable or nice, but it’s normal and in most cases probably healthy as long as the person doing the breaking up isn’t needlessly cruel about it.

            I’ve rarely had a not-in-person breakup or statement of disinterest in continuing to date where I thought to myself “this would have been fine if it were just in person”. I’ve had a couple of in-person breakups that I was like “why didn’t you just do this online and save us both the trouble and me the embarrassment”.

        2. Yes, if it isn’t a discussion, just do it over the phone or email. Really, if you are DONE, for any reason or none, and there is nothing else for the other person to say, make it quick and clean and distant.

  4. You owe him nothing. He’s promised repeatedly to change, and hasn’t. He’s not going to now, no matter what he says. Of course you don’t believe him; he hasn’t given you anything /to/ believe.

    *Jedi hugs* It won’t be easy, but the Captain is right. He’s had his chances, and you owe /yourself/ a chance at real happiness. I hope you grab it with both hands. 🙂

    1. I don’t know much, but I do know this: In a few years, you will look back at your time with this person and say “what was I thinking?” You will realize in a couple of years that you have grown beyond the stage that this guy even looks like a good idea. It WILL happen. In the meantime, you need to keep repeating like a mantra “I deserve better than this….” Keep repeating this. You have to know by now that even if this jerk divorced his wife and decided to marry you, you will be the wife he is cheating on. When I was younger and the person I thought was the love of my life broke up with me, my mother promised me that I would feel better and would look back and think how lucky I was that everything was over with this guy. I did not believe her then, but she was right. I have been married to someone else now for 30+ years and am thankful that I never married the first guy (who was a cheater.) Just remember, that of the two of you, you should be the one with peace of mind. Everyone is right that you need to throw yourself into something else for a while, whether it’s work or a hobby or something you want to do like writing a novel. Good luck.

  5. Hey there LW. Listen, I broke up with someone (not a Darth, but the Force was strong in him), and I moved across the country. He still had some of my stuff (we had been living together), and one night he showed up at my door. He was also driving across the country, and went many hours out of his way to return my jewelry box to me. He wanted to stay the night at my house. I told him no. He begged, he pleaded, he cajoled, and he called me a bitch. I said no. I remember it so clearly, although it was eight years ago now. After hours of back and forth, he finally left, and I instantly called a friend and spent the night at her house. Although it sucked, and I really did feel like a bitch (where was he going to sleep that night? he had driven so far!), he never called me again. The break-up stuck, and I moved on, slowly, and with a lot of tenderness towards myself and my experiences. You can do it too!

    1. Good for you! Hotels/motels/campsites exist for a reason, and it’s so manipulative to make his lack of planning your problem. “I didn’t bother to make plans *not* to sleep at your place, so now you *have* to house me.”

      1. I find sometimes it helps to picture it like this, when one is feeling guilty: what would this person do if you were completely unable to help them? If you’d gone out of town on short notice or been hit by a bus or something? Well, whatever they’d do in that case, they can do it in this one. They can’t stay with you, period, end of story.

        1. Yep. If the guy had just wanted to return some stuff, packing it and mailing it would surely have been less of a hassle. He showed up in person because he wanted the scene where you let him in, not because of that box of stuff.

    2. Happy for you that you didn’t let him in, though ALL the wrong was on him either way. Boo on him for trying to manipulate you with his crappy “I did this thing you did not want or ask for, so please feel totally uncomfortable and pressured and sex me also. I am obviously SO GREAT.”

  6. LW, when I ended things with a Darth some years ago, I was convinced I was putting my own love life to death. I was sure I was too old and too unappealing and too broken to ever deserve or receive love again.

    But guess what? Believing that is part of what a Darth does to you. It’s not real. And, honestly, even if it was real, it was still a more acceptable fate than living with Darth-drama until he got tired of it, which is why I ended it.

    Anyway, as it turned out, it really didn’t take long for happenstance and internet dating to throw some kinder, gentler, more compassionate gentlemen into my path. Sometimes complete strangers made kinder and better companions than Darth ever did, so. Hang in there.

  7. You’ve given him eight years worth of chances to change, and he hasn’t. Take that as a sign – he’s got no intentions to change, and just wants to keep stringing you along. RUN.

    Also, anyone who tries to make you feel like they’re the ONLY one who can see any worth in you (AAARGH) is being a manipulative jerk and is trying to isolate you. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

    Take some time to take care of yourself. Contact your Team Me if possible, and let them know what’s going on (as much as you’re comfortable with sharing) and begin the healing process. It may not be easy, but your long-term health will thank you for it.

    1. I’m not seeing where Darth explicitly stated that he is the only person who could love an independent, high-earning, successful lady like the LW.

      Unfortunately, he doesn’t have to have said it, because it’s what you, dear LW, believe.

      But the thing is: how could you know that no other men will love someone like you? You’ve been focusing all your romantic time and energy on this Darth for the last 8 YEARS. You haven’t actually been *looking* for a guy who is not threatened by your economic and professional success, because you’ve been entangled in a sticky drama spiderweb with this dude.

      Get away from this guy. Focus on yourself, on grieving, and on healing. And then, when you get back out on the dating market and are actually, really, and truly looking for a man who is not intimidated by your success, I think that you will find one very easily.

      1. Can we mention the “help him get over” the breakup thing here? You can’t help someone get over you. It’s scientifically impossible. Just no. Sorry. Can’t be done.

        1. Right! The more you “help” someone get over you, the harder you are actually making it for them to do so. You’re actually strengthening their emotional bond to you. It’s happened many times to me and people I know; once I was emotionally dependent on this one guy for something like three years after we split up for exactly this reason: he felt bad for breaking my heart and wanted to help me feel better. The upshot of this was that I never even started to try getting over him or finding someone else or occupying myself with awesome stuff, because why did I need to? He was right there!

        2. We should add ‘shouldn’t be done’ to ‘can’t’, I feel. It’s not your job and that’s fine.

        3. Well, to be fair, you can. You absolutely can help somebody else move on. You just can’t do it without being a total asshole to them (and making them glad to no longer be around the nasty person.)

          Basically, LW, there’s no behavior that you’d actually want to exhibit that will make this better for him, so make it as easy on yourself as you can and be done. Email is fine.

    2. Darth hears “Eight years of chances” as, “I don’t have to change a thing.” Your choices directly influence his. You’ve always been sovereign, LW, though you may not have realized it.

  8. Dear LW, there are six billion people in the world ,I guarantee you that somewhere out there are, not just one, but multiple people who will appreciate your awesome self for the person you are. You owe this dickweed precisely fuck all. Ditch him and join us here in the bright sunshiny land of the Fuck Its, where not a single fuck is given for Darths.

    1. ‘Ditch him and join us here in the bright sunshiny land of the Fuck Its, where not a single fuck is given for Darths.’ PLUS, we have cookies. The Land of Fuck Its is a glorious land.

    1. The second I read that LW found out after THREE YEARS that there was a wife, that was my exact answer.

    2. *gestures emphatically* YES, THAT. YOU OWE HIM EXACTLY JACK SHIT.

      LW, that “no one else will want me” bit broke my heart – there are literally billions of people on the planet and the odds that this one guy is the only person on the planet for you is minute. There’s no guarantees in love and life, of course, and there are a HELL a lot of stinkers (and other Darths) out there, but I know that you’ll never find The Right Person while you’re still preoccupied with The Wrong One.

  9. You can do it! I’ve found post-Darth love, and it’s everything I thought I had with Darth except it isn’t terrible for my mental health! Even if it takes a while, you owe it to yourself to be your own BFF. Having high standards does not mean you’re unlovable- it means you have a firm grasp of what kind of relationship works for you and meets your needs, and it weeds out the date-plicants who won’t be good fits. If Darth wants to meet to talk at you because he has feelings and he needs you to manage those, please-and-thank-you, don’t fall for it like I did, dear LW. He is relying on sexmagic and the closeness you still feel for him to get free emotional labor out of you (and yes, also sex). My ex-Darth just broke up with their now ex, and I am prepared to give them the stiff-arm because, as suspected, “We need to talk,” except no we don’t. We’ve been over for a while, there is nothing to talk about. We are not friends, we cannot be friends, and I cannot give them the emotional labor I once was glad to provide.

  10. It is so, SO much nicer being alone than being with someone who isn’t right for you. And Darth? Darth has shown you time and time again that he isn’t right for you.

    Odds are that you will find someone IMMENSELY better to be with. But I promise you, even if you don’t, it’s better than being with a Darth.

      1. It took me over five years after my husband died to find someone I wasn’t tired of after 3 months, and a lot of it was being in the right situation and finding the right person, and those two things had to happen in temporal proximity for it to actually work. Parts of those five years were glorious and I felt like a goddess come to earth to occasionally bless random super hot guys with my bounty, and parts of them were horrible and I felt like a miserably undateable freak. But I learned SO MUCH about myself and what I want from a relationship and what I’m willing to compromise on and what I absolutely won’t compromise on, so even if I sometimes feel irked about those 5 years of straight up grinding at dating like I was gaining XP in the worst game in the world, in the end I can’t really regret any of it. It was an extremely irritating but necessary stage of my life, and I think I came out better on the other side for it.

        And I definitely have some awesomely bad first date stories, which honestly makes a terrible first date into its own reward. 🙂

        1. I’m not looking. And that’s ok.

          Because not being around a Darth is grand. Living in the Fuck Its is warm sunshine and brilliant snow.

          1. Yes, of course, that is totally okay! I wasn’t looking for a long time either. (Well, not for anything serious.) 😉 I just wanted to offer my experience in the vein of the “no one else will ever want me” fear.

  11. Nothing to add to the already excellent advice–it will be hard as hell but so worth it and DO NOT CONTACT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE–but pouring on the support and love. You do indeed owe him nothing and yourself everything. All the love and jedi hugs.

  12. Can I say that I personally know 12 heterosexual couples where the woman is ambitious, capable, in a high earning job and the man is a nurturing, laid-back, stay-at-home-dad/support spouse who is willing to pickup and go where their wife’s job leads?
    Because I do. (More like 20 counting LGBT couples)

    It’s a thing. Not the norm, but enough of of thing that if you spend 8 years being who you are and not settling for men who don’t love you, you will find at least three or four you like that are joyously grateful for a woman who needs a stable, sweet, homebody to tend to the details their life. To cook good meals, plan fun trips, and notice which pajamas are your favorite so they can buy backups for laundry day.

    Please go find them. It may not feel like love at first, you may break up with a few good guys because you can’t stop missing the intensity of Darth. That’s okay. Eventually one of them will make you feel like you’ve come home, and it will make what you had with Darth feel like a pale shadow of a relationship.

  13. “i feel like i should explain to him how what he’s doing is wrong”

    You don’t owe him this, and it’s moot anyway. Not only does he know what he is doing wrong already, he clearly doesn’t care. By all means, write him a long ass letter detailing all of his transgressions over the years to make sure they are forefront on YOUR mind (and to give you a reference point if/when you start to miss him), but don’t send it.

    1. exactly. he knows already. you don’t need to draw him a picture of a hat labeled “this is a hat”. He knows.

          1. I… am really tempted also. I already have a pile of font stuff from when I did one for last year’s secret santa.

      1. He is trying to get you to think it’s a boa constrictor that has swallowed an elephant… But everyone knows that this time, a hat is just a hat.

    2. Very much this. He knows what he’s doing wrong and he isn’t going to change. Trying to explain or to “help him through” is only going to give him more chances to manipulate you. You’re a decent, caring person and he is very deliberately taking advantage of that.

  14. I absolutely LOVE how the Captain reminded LW she had the power. Darth situations leave us feeling so out of control, when really, we have had the power inside us all along.

    I had a Darth once, too – one I just couldn’t say no to. And suddenly, one day, I was done. Nothing he said or did could pull me back in. I wish you the ability to find that power inside yourself, LW. There is a great, big, wonderful world full of love waiting for you.

  15. The most pleasurable and the most unexpected gift I gained from leaving my Darth was my own self respect. I thought leaving would get me stranded with all my loneliness, failures, shortcomings, regrets. I thought I wasn’t woman enough.

    When I made that choice to stop settling for a Darth, I discovered who I was. And I like her. She is a tough cookie. My post Darth life has been one of being loved by friends, family and the most wonderful man I ever met – who loves all the aforementioned stranded aspects of me. And that was a blessing. One I wasn’t convinced I’d have.

    But honestly, there is an incredible strength to be gained from trusting that actually, you are enough in your own eyes. You are eough for you. You can do this. To look in the mirror and respect what you see; that is a gift. And you can give yourself that gift.

    The Darths of the world cannot compare to that kind of peace of mind.

  16. “He’s also the only dude that’s ever not gotten threatened by my independence/high earning job/future plans”
    NO! NO! NO! You’ve spent so much time with him that you haven’t even looked around at other men. There are dating sites specifically for high earning professionals. Men who use those sites are actually looking for independent, high earning women.
    “What do i owe him after 8 years?”
    More to the point, what does he owe YOU? He’s repeatedly promised to change and never, ever, has. Why do you feel you owe something to a man who, when you met him, was cheating on his wife, AND his other girlfriend, with you? Why do you feel you owe him something? What’s he done for you, exactly?
    You’ve already told him what he’s doing wrong. He’s still doing it anyway. Don’t let the “sunk cost” fallacy keep you in a dead end relationship for no other reason than that it’s been going on for 8 years.

    1. I’m not so sure he IS “unthreatened” by your independence. He’s lying to you and dragging you down. His actions negatively affectd your job.

      How is that supporting you?

    2. “He’s also the only dude that’s ever not gotten threatened by my independence/high earning job/future plans”

      Maybe I’m just a cynical old spinster, but I suspect the reason why Darth was so unthreatened by your independence etc was that it proved to him that you could look after yourself and you apparently didn’t need him to support you – rather than him being proud of your capabilities. I’ve come across guys like this myself – they like independent women because they see you as providing all the sex and fun, while they don’t have to look after you or support you.

  17. LW, I too had my run of Darths and also men who are threatened by successful partners, so let me tell you: this mean asshole who lies to you is NOT the only person who will ever want you. There are other dudes out there who don’t have multiple partners that they don’t tell you about, there are other dudes who don’t coerce and trick you into staying with them, and most importantly there are other dudes who will think that your success is an awesome, good thing. They are out there! I have one myself, after years of thinking that it would be impossible to find a dude who WANTED me to be successful!

    Your boyfriend has gotten into your brain and twisted everything around so that things go exactly the way he wants them to. Instead of thinking, “I am really unhappy? Pretty much all the time?” you’re thinking “But I have to stay friends, right?” Instead of thinking “In my life there is a mean person who lies to me and tricks me, and I don’t want him there anymore” you’re thinking “I owe it to this mean asshole to give him infinite chances to manipulate me.” It’s time to start thinking about yourself!

    Being selfish has a bad rap, and it really shouldn’t. Almost all the time, when people say “This person is selfish” what they actually mean is “This person isn’t doing what I want.” So it’s time to be selfish, LW, it’s time to focus on what matters TO YOU and what is enjoyable TO YOU, instead of what matters to a mean asshole who lies to you and won’t take no for an answer.

    Also? One thing I realized when I ran from my Darths is they thought a lot of really unkind things about me. When my Darths tried to coerce, force, trick or manipulate me into staying even when I broke up with them, what they actually meant is “You, Dizzy, are so stupid and weak that you can’t possible be in control of your own life! But I’m smart and strong, so I’ll make decisions for both of us, because you’re too much of an idiot to know what you want. I know what’s best for you, because I’m better than you.” When my Darths made promises–like getting a job, like therapy, like not lying to me anymore–and broke them, what they were saying to me is “I know that you’re so weak of mind and spirit that I don’t actually have to keep my promises! I’ll pretend to go along with it for a little while, to get rid of those pesky lady-emotions, but obviously I don’t *need* to change, because I know that if I ignore you long enough I won’t have to! I only change for people I respect, but you’re not WORTH that respect.”

    Does seeing it laid out like that make his behavior feel different? When someone loves you and respects you, they want you to be happy, so they won’t do things that THEY KNOW hurt you to get their own way. When people don’t love and respect you, they do whatever they want because fuck you, that’s why.

    One thing I cannot recommend highly enough is a friend who is not easily manipulated. If you have one, make use of them. Let them check your voicemails. Let them take the phone from your hands and tell you, no LW, you said you didn’t want to talk to him so you *don’t actually* have to take his calls. Let them call the cops when Darth “accidentally” drives by your house or knocks on your door because he forgot that one thing that he needs. Because you’re trying to quit an addiction cold-turkey and it is HARD HARD HARD. If you have someone who can take some of the load, let them take some of the load.

    1. Yes to all of this.

      IMO the magic moment is when you see all the compliments Darth gave you morph seamlessly into insults, attacks on your perceptions, or reasons why you can’t/won’t/don’t really want to be without him. You can’t unsee that, which is both painful and so liberating.

    2. With coercion and force mentioned, I feel drawn to point out that this role could be a dangerous position for the friend. With a relationship this long-term, I really want to advocate for talking to professionals. Darth may see the friend as someone who “ruined the relationship” and who is now someone to attack.

      I knew a woman who was killed by her husband, a guy I’d once been pals with at work, and to me that guy was very smooth likeable and charming. He’d been in my house, even met my mom and I never saw his violent side, but the cops and the courts did. His whole persona was fake.

      Survivors go for help.

  18. I say this as someone who WAS dumped by email by a Darth: DO IT BY EMAIL. Your Darth has proven time and again that he won’t return the respect you give him when you tried to dump him in person. And then once you send it, block him everywhere, and remove all correspondence. It’s easier when you don’t have reminders of him popping up everywhere when you’re online.

    I’m roughly six weeks out, and while I’m not feeling great, I’m feeling much better than I did when we first broke up. You can do it! The Captain’s advice for filling up the empty space is excellent–I’ve been filling mine with movies and books, and it’s helped a great deal.

    1. And as someone who wasn’t dumped over the phone by a Darth, and had to come back to our apartment by myself and have the shittiest time of my life when I could tell something was wrong when I called, and then had to call back my family to pick me up, who had dropped me off for the Breakup Special…

      Yeah. Do it by email. Do it by email, do it by email, do it by email. Screw having horrible conversations like this in person when you’ll probably want to talk to *anyone but them* afterwards. (And should, since I definitely don’t recommend leaning on each other for emotional support afterwards!)

      1. Myself, I would have preferred the phone, if only because my dumping came a couple of weeks after we’d promised to communicate better with each other, and one of the issues was, “important conversations in person or over the phone.”

        In this case, LW? You’re totally within your rights to dump this guy by email. He didn’t listen to you at all when you were respectful and did it in person. He’s had more than enough chances.

  19. Oh my god, please don’t stay friends to “help him through it”. He has A WIFE and also ANOTHER SIDE GIRLFRIEND whom I’m sure will be thrilled to apply their healing vaginas to his sad. You deserve more than to be the band-aid for the dude you’re breaking up with.

    I suspect, LW, that if you can actually dump him, and if you can make it stick (and these are hard things! When you do it, you should give yourself a high five daily for years!) you will discover that in fact he was a black hole of need and negativity who has been dragging you down, and that literally any other person on earth is going to be way better than he was.

    Also, don’t explain how what he was doing was wrong. He’s had eight years to become not-a-jerk, and if you haven’t seen any improvement in that time, your heartfelt explanation of what he could do better isn’t going to make a difference. Block him on everything, send one last text “WE’RE THROUGH, FUCK THE FUCK OFF” and then block his number.

    1. Oh wow I have no idea how I didn’t notice this part of the letter, but AGREED 100%. This person functioned on this planet before you were around, and emotional pain (while painful! and sometimes part of a long-term struggle with mental health!) is *absolutely not* something that any person is obligated to handle on behalf of another person. Even after 8 years.

      A+, listen to Novel, she is one who Knows.

    2. Eight years in a relationship is not like eight years of med school: your healing vagina does not suddenly get an MD and become Doc Vajayjay, Healer Of All Manly Pains. And, honestly, his problem is in the OTHER head, the one that probably hasn’t been near your vagina in a long time.

      Let this guy go, just like you’d throw out clothes with unsightly holes or stains or that one shirt in the back of your closet that you promised to wear over and over and then just sort of forgot was there. You need to declutter your life, and This Guy Is Clutter.

      Jedi hugs if you want them and best of luck in your newfound freedom.

  20. If you decide to break up, then you are broken up. He doesn’t get a vote on this. You are broken up even if he begs for closure or says that you did it wrong. You are broken up if you do it by text. You are broken up if you do it by phone. You are broken up if you do it by email.
    You don’t owe him a hearing. You don’t owe him a chance to make a statement. You don’t need to answer when he calls, in fact I strongly suggest blocking him. You don’t have to read his emails, and I suggest blocking those too. He does not need to see you face to face, not in private or public. If he has stuff of yours he can hand it over to someone else to deliver. If you have stuff of his, likewise. Just mail it.
    Or toss it.
    You owe him NOTHING! Not friendship, or acquaintanceship, or staying in his presence if he shows up somewhere that you are.

    1. This inspired me; apologies to Dr Seuss:

      You can break it off by phone, you can break up on your own.
      You can break it off by text, then look around and say, “What’s next?”
      Block his Facebook, block his emails,
      block it all–you don’t need details.
      You don’t owe him explanations, you don’t owe him reparations;
      you don’t owe him one last fling, you don’t owe him anything!
      Mail his stuff in boxes and buckets
      and live with smiles in the land of Fuck-Its.

      1. Do not eat this asshole’s Green eggs and ham. You do not like Green eggs and ham.

        1. I would not date him in a box; I would not date him with a fox.
          I would not date him in a house; I would not date him with a mouse.
          I would not date him here or there; I would not date him ANYWHERE.

          I would not date him, Sam-I-Am, I do not like his eggs and ham.

  21. How I wish I had had these responses to read when I was stuck with my Darth. I stayed with him for nine years — got back together with him after divorcing him once and nearly married him a second time.

    In hindsight it’s so hard to look back and see how his manipulations worked on me for so long.

    I hope the comments are resonating with you, LW, — the Light Side of the Force is strong in them! And I wish you all the best in your new life without Darth.

    All the Jedi hugs.

    1. I’m so glad you are out! Darths have very powerful tractor beams, but even if no Obi-Wan shows up we can be our own Jedi Master and disable the generator. It is alarming how well this metaphor can be extended.

  22. Dear LW: unless he has loaned you money, you don’t owe him anything. Dump him by email, dump him by text, dump him by registered letter, if you want to. If there’s stuff of his at your place, put it in a box and mail it. If there’s stuff of yours at his place, write it off.

    “maybe i think he’s the only one who will ever want me?” — If there were any possible remaining doubt that you have been Darthed, that would settle it.

    Measles make you come out in spots, and Darths make you believe that nobody but them will ever love you and you’re lucky even to have them. They also take your terrifyingly amazing virtues and turn them into flaws, like, your independence and great career track are SUCH a burden for a partner, you’re so threatening, your success has made you so hard to love, aren’t you LUCKY that there’s ONE person on this planet who’s willing to tolerate your … amazingness?

    I mean, in return for a few reasonable concessions. Minor, really. Little things like putting up with the wife and the girlfriend and the thing where he’s a lying fuckweasel. But, I mean, he has to put up with you being COMPLETELY AMAZING so it’s only fair, right?

    In other words, LW, you are perhaps not the best judge of your ability to attract love at this time. Your self-esteem has a Darth-Shaped dent in it which distorts the image.

    I’ve been there, with the solemn explaining to my Team Me that I nobody was ever going to love me again, that was it, my only chance gone and I was just going to give up.

    Your Mileage May Vary, but frankly, the series of faces and noises they made trying not to actually roar with laughter on me making this speech were INCREDIBLY helpful to me. Not necessarily immediately, and there are probably more subtle ways to do it, but if you need a quick reality check I can honestly recommend explaining in grim detail to your closest, dearest friends how completely unloveable you are.

    I mean, I haven’t even MET you and *I* am, I’m sorry, kind of laughing a little. sympathetically.

  23. “He’s also the only dude that’s ever not gotten threatened by my independence/high earning job/future plans…”
    LW, he’s not threatened by your being an independent, high earning, long-sighted woman because (1) he doesn’t actually care about you so he’s not afraid of losing you, other than the dent in his ego if he loses a toy (2) that you are independent, high earning, and long-sighted makes it that much more of an ego-boo for him that he can get you to play by his rules.

    Captain’s advice is spot on: text/email dump, then block.

  24. I sometimes think that a bit of an exit interview or postmortem can be useful (though never actually OWED) when breaking up, especially for younger or less experienced people who may not actually be aware that normative behaviors in which they are engaging are problems. In this case, however, the problem is normatively considered to be a problem, so it’s obvious, and the people involved are older, so there’s really nothing to be gained by anyone (especially the LW) from a breakup more involved than, “We’re done; please do not contact me any more.” I’m squarely on the side of a clean break with zero contact.

    1. Nooooo. Newp. Nyet. Non. Ouk esti. People can have postmortems about their breakups with their friends. People can ask the people around them what they’re doing that is making everyone break up with them.

      Probably most of us have asked, upon occasion, and it was always a bad idea. Any feedback you think you’re getting that’s useful, if it comes soon enough to mean anything and from a place of genuine good intentions on the part of the person who dumped you? It is not the truth.

      You don’t owe anyone an “exit interview”. It’s not genuinely useful to anybody concerned. If they care, they’ll conduct their own investigation and not bother the person who just broke up with them about why.

    2. Seconded. If someone left me, I’d want to know why. But that doesn’t really apply to this situation, because bro already knows what he’s doing to LW is bad for her and makes her unhappy.

  25. (Previous comment was eaten, I apologize if it emerged and this duplicates)

    Dear LW:

    You don’t owe him anything. Also, he doesn’t have to agree to the breakup. You are informing him of a decision you’ve already taken.

    Please follow the Captain’s advice, and breakup electronically. Then block all over.

    You might be imagining his response. Specifically, you might be imagining him thinking mean things, or doing mean things.

    His thoughts and feelings are his issue, not yours. Please don’t let them influence your actions.

    His actions though: You might imagine him doing mean things. You might have a horrid feeling of “Oh God! What will he do now?” Because if that is so, or even just because, I highly recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Why does he do that?

    That feeling of dread is telling. So is the way he wants you to make yourself less.

    You have my best wishes, and Jedi hugs if you want them.

  26. I have a story that relates to both aspects of your tale of woe – the darth ex and the fear of not being loved by another.

    I broke up with a darth for various reasons, fortunately quite early and before real problems started. That night he showed up on my doorstep incredibly late and pounded on the door for an hour (I hoped if I ignored him he would leave) until my poor roommate said she couldn’t take it anymore so I went to tell him to get lost. He said he was drunk so he needed to come in and I thankfully refused. I don’t condone drunk driving but call a cab, take a bus, NOT MY PROBLEM. He harassed me and threatened my safety for months after and it all ended in a restraining order and some decent therapy.

    Even though I don’t regret getting out of that situation I struggled with feelings that no one else would love me. On top of also being a successful and self-sufficient lady I have an incurable STI (from my rapist – thanks, dude!).

    I was honest with dating partners about my medical issue and I was rejected more than once because of it. It hurt and the feeling that I would never find someone kept growing and growing.

    Fast forward several trying years. I have a wonderful, loving partner. I make much more money because he is a freelancer and I have a great job. He makes up for it by doing all the laundry and making excellent dinners when I have long days. I pay the bulk of the bills and he doesn’t have any deflated man boners about it.

    It was all worth the horrible breakups and failed attempts with men that couldn’t live with my success or my disease; to finally have a great partner that loves me and supports my career.

    Dear LW, it will be hard. It will suck. There will be dark and lonely moments or seemingly endless stretches of time. But please know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and when you finally have a love that is more than false hopes and broken promises you will know it and it will all be so, so worth it.


  27. Today I am flabbergasted that I ever saw anything in my Darth and equally amazed at how awesome my life is with my… Leia? Rei? (Actually, she’s got some of Finn’s earnestness in her.)

    You’ve already given him far, far more than you “owe,” if you can be said to owe him anything at all.

    You owe it to yourself to get started filling the hole that cutting off all contact with Darth will create in you. Good luck.

  28. LW

    You absolutely, 100%, totally, completely, do NOT owe this Darth anything.

    You especially don’t owe him “staying friends to nurse him through it”. It is nice to be nursed through sad times and break-ups. It is never, ever, something the ex themselves should or even can do. Even if this guy wasn’t a Darth.

    If he was faithful, honest, genuine and kept all his promises and you were breaking up for some other reason, the right thing to do would STILL be to nope out of his life and give him – and yourself – space to heal and move on. I am friends with some of my exes, but that happened after we’d spent time properly apart, having real space away from each other, and none of the exes I’ve remained friends with were Darthy. With a Darth? Friendship will not be an option.

    Your Darth is a manipulator. That’s how he’s managed to string along a wife and two girlfriends for 8 years. It’s how he convinced you to stay with him for a further 5 years after you broke up with him after discovering his cheating. Trust me that “friendship”, to him, will just be an avenue he’ll use to try and worm his way back in again.

    Your Darth is charming enough to have won the hearts of 3 wonderful women at the same time. I’ve no doubt he’s got a bunch of friends. It is their job to help him through this.

    Your job is to take care of your own needs post-breakup.

    1. “It is nice to be nursed through sad times and break-ups. It is never, ever, something the ex themselves should or even can do. Even if this guy wasn’t a Darth.”

      I feel like this is an important point. Never mind how he’s behaved in the past. Even a genuinely good guy doesn’t have a claim on you like that.

      1. Even if he wasn’t a Darth – if he was the most lovely guy but it just wasn’t working as you wanted and you were having a sad but mutually understood and negotiated, emotionally healthy breakup – you can’t nurse him through the sad times. It’s like trying to cure stinging nettle rash by whacking yourself with more nettles – like cures like only works for homeopathy, and only in homeopathic doses.

  29. 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?

    I’ll let Yoda get this. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist!)

    You’ve been with Darth for 8 years, so I’m guessing that you haven’t done a lot of comparison in real-life situations? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fine most other men are with women with drive and career plans, and a lot of them will really like the fact that you are successful and ambitious. Yes, there are some sad-acts out there who feel threatened by women who are independent and successful, but if you ever meet one, take that as a cue to move on to someone better. Every man I’ve ever met who was threatened by a woman’s intelligence and success had problems with women that went waaaay deeper than the fact that they earned less money than a woman. But most men I know are looking for a partner, not an adoring helpmeet or a trophy. Don’t let Darth make you think that “supports a partner’s goals and ambitions” is a special snowflake quality that only he possesses. It really, really isn’t, and I’m sure you’ll be amazed and delighted by how many good men there are when you’ve finally left the Death Star. You deserve happiness – don’t be afraid to go out there and find it!

  30. Haven’t read all the other comments, which are usually awesome, but wanted to say this: Chump Lady. Google it. It’s extremely corrosive “how not to get sucked back into the skein of fuckupedness with a dishonest partner” fuel. I read it whenever I feel the need to reconcile with someone who treated me badly. Have fun.

  31. “he’s the only one who will ever want me” is such BS. I struggled to get out of my marriage for a very very long time. When I finally left my husband, my father actually said to me that I should go back to him, because I was too fat, and no one else would want me. At that point, my feeling was that I’d rather spend the rest of my life alone (which I truly thought I would…see how both my ex AND my own father were reinforcing my worthlessness to me…no wonder I was married for 16 miserable years) than spend another day married to my husband.

    First of all, being alone is not a bad thing. There is nothing quite lonier than being in a terrible relationship where you aren’t appreciated. The utter freedom I felt when I managed to get out on my own was liberating and exhilerating.

    Second, it wasn’t true at all that I was unattractive to others. I have a wonderful romantic life, and am now in a relationship with a guy who absolutely adores me, and treats me well.

    I shudder when I think of how long I spent unhappy. You have the power to make your life better…cut those ties…you own Darth nothing. Since you don’t have children with him, you have no reason to stay in contact with him. You have no obligations to him. I agree with CA that there should be no contact at all.

    You have a bright Darthless future ahead of you. Since you are independant, high earning job, and future plans, go make them come true!

      1. Dr. Sarah, It’s the only time I cursed at my Dad. I very calmly told him to F himself, and walked away. And then got divorced and happier. The weird thing is that now he claims that he was super supportive of my getting divorced. None of my family was emotionally supportive at the time. Even without their support, I managed to get out, and I’m thriving now. Now that I’ve had a lot of time to process my marriage and history, I can see where my dad’s undermining behavior set me up to not see my ex’s behavior as a red flag, as it felt familiar to me. I have much more perspective now.

        1. **I very calmly told him to F himself, and walked away.**

          Good for you! I wanted to straight-up punch your dad when I read that. You’re so right that being alone is 1000% better than being with someone awful. Sometimes you gotta say, “Even if I never have a romantic relationship ever again, being away from…this is nothing but win.”

        2. @Major Mia: Wow, lady – in that case, can I give you ALL THE HIGH FIVES? While it’s always horrible to read about someone acting that way, it is at least *majorly* cool to hear about that shit receiving the treatment it deserves.

          (And now, off to continue the ongoing project of being the *opposite* kind of parent – the kind who teaches my children that the people in their life should show them they’re loved and worthy, and who teaches them this by example.)

  32. I had an on again, off again, on again relationship in college. He was sooo beautiful and the sex was so good and I loved him sooo much. Too bad we were just really bad for each other. It ended when I moved across the country for graduate school. I thought I’d never find someone that I loved like that.

    Fast forward to today. I’ve been married for 11 years to a guy who would NEVER leave me out of the blue and never jerk me around and never lie to me. Being in this relationship is such a relief. It’s so easy. And, btw, I am a highly accomplished professional and my husband loves to brag about it.

    Relationships don’t have to be like the one you had with Darth. You don’t have to be in one where you always wonder what he’s doing or what he’s saying.

  33. LW, you don’t owe Darth anything. Not one more minute of your time. You already gave him the gift of your TERRIFYING AMAZINGNESS for 8 years, and in return what did he give you?

    It’s so hard to leave, dear LW, when you’ve invested so much time and energy into a relationship, and you just knew (and then hoped, and then began losing hope) that it would all pay off someday. That sunk cost fallacy, it’s real y’all, and Darths know just how to work it. Just like they know how to push all your buttons, and convince you that they’re the only one who would (could) ever love you, for all your terrifying amazingness. That’s not true of course, but it’s so hard to believe when you’re down in the gutter with a Darth.

    That said, I don’t want to make you promises that you will find your One True Life Partner (TM). You might, hopefully you will!! But no one can guarantee it. But I’m here to tell you, as someone who left her Darth 10 years ago now and has loved and been loved since but has not yet found one who lasted – that it’s okay. Take it from me, being free to live your life on your own terms without all the drama and manipulation and emotional highs and lows that Darth brings to the table is So. Much. Better. Now you can put all that time into effort into things and experiences and people that make you happy, that add to your life instead of taking away from it.

    One more thing: beware the fallacy of We’ll Be Friends Some Day. That siren song is strong – you shared so much with Darth that you’ve never been able to share with anyone else, and maybe never will be able to – but it’s sure to end with you adrift on the rocks. Darths seem to have some magic ability to know just the right time to reach out, can somehow sense when you’ll be at your most vulnerable. But even 10 years later, when surely Darth must have grown up and become a less self-involved and manipulative person, odds are that they’ll slip and show their true colors sooner or later. Best to keep them blocked so you’re not drawn to their pleas.

    All the best to you LW!

  34. I highly recommend anyone, particularly anyone under 50, who thinks someone might be the last person who ever wants them, to marathon a season or two of The Golden Girls.

    I also recommend taking as long as it takes to be single and treat yourself the way you hope a partner will someday treat you, until you realize that you deserve those things. Then keep doing it until you find the person or people who are going to treat you that way.

  35. i feel like i should explain to him how what he’s doing is wrong, and maybe stay friends to help him through it?


    Speaking as a recovering jerkbag, a former manipulator/bastard/Darth, this will not have the desired effect. It will not help him and it will not help you. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing: it just wastes your time and annoys the pig.

    The most likely scenario is that he does not realize how harmful his manipulative behavior is. Whatever system of interactions and cues he’s cobbled together over the years are probably mostly unplanned, stimulus-response algorithms of “I do this thing to get that result” without any real awareness of what he’s doing or why it works. He is probably as dishonest and manipulative with himself as he with you and the other women in his life*. Which means he’s going to be in complete denial, and not interested in what you have to say, only being upset with how you’re reacting to him now. All this course of action would do is continue your exposure to his manipulative behaviors.

    One other alternative is that Darth knows he’s evil, is aware that he’s using harmful, manipulative techniques, and isn’t bothered by that in the slightest. In which case, he will absolutely pretend to be interested in what you have to say, absolutely want to friends while he’s “working through it”, and will use this as one more opportunity to get his hooks back into you.

    What do i owe him after 8 years?

    Turn that one around, LW. What does he owe you after 8 years? Has that debt shrunk over time, or has it grown? What if, after 8 years, he owes you some things that he’ll never make good on? Not all debts can be settled; sometimes you just have to write it off the ledger and be done.

    *Even if this is true, and the Darth is clueless about what he’s doing, that does not make him any less harmful, any less hurtful, any less dangerous to your happiness and well being. Yes, we can feel pity because he’s lying to himself and his self-deception is keeping him from growing and finding happiness and whatnot, but as they say on the airline safety videos, first secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.

    1. “The most likely scenario is that he does not realize how harmful his manipulative behavior is. Whatever system of interactions and cues he’s cobbled together over the years are probably mostly unplanned, stimulus-response algorithms of “I do this thing to get that result” without any real awareness of what he’s doing or why it works. He is probably as dishonest and manipulative with himself as he with you and the other women in his life*. Which means he’s going to be in complete denial, and not interested in what you have to say, only being upset with how you’re reacting to him now. All this course of action would do is continue your exposure to his manipulative behaviors.”

      This is really eye-opening. Thank you.

      1. It’s important to have a model for these people that acknowledges their terrible, awful behavior without requiring us to characterize them as being inherently evil or malicious precisely because we interact with people who have good traits, who are nice to pets and seem kind, yet continue to pull this toxic relationship shit over & over again. It’s not about excusing their bad behavior, it’s about (to paraphrase Jay Smooth) having the “what they did” conversation instead of the more nebulous, harder to pin down “who they are” conversation.

        Yes, Luke felt there was still good in Vader, and eventually Vader did redeem himself… but only after trying to kidnap Luke, torturing his friends, cutting Luke’s hand off, threatening his sister, and letting his boss electrocute Luke for a while. Unless the fate of the Galaxy hangs in the balance, most of us shouldn’t stick around for all that bad stuff just on the hope that Vader turns himself around.

    2. Thank you for confirming my totally unvalidated theory on how manipulative people end up manipulating. Most people are just not nearly as calculating as Alternative Darth.

    3. This is a really well written analysis of manipulators, and I just want to add something to it. Some people manipulate consciously and maliciously. Some people manipulate because they learned unhealthy ways of relating through dysfunctional families/relationships. Either way, ALL manipulators do it for one reason and one reason only–it gets them what they want.

      The only way to stop someone from manipulating you is to stop letting it work. If you try to explain why what he’s doing is wrong, you are opening the door for him to justify and defend, or turn it around and blame you, or pull the “God, I’m just the WORST person in the world I don’t even know why you want to be around me” routine where you end up feeling sorry for him even though he’s the one who hurt you. And suddenly you’re sucked right back in, and guess what? The manipulation worked.

      It sounds like this guy is a master at manipulation, and really the only way you can stop that behavior is by removing yourself entirely. Like the Captain said–cut off contact. Block him. Don’t respond to calls or letters. Because any response from you–even one where you are yelling at him in rage–will be seen as a crack in the door for him to stick his foot into.

      1. I have done the “try to explain it” thing, and indeed, gotten the result of “I’m the WORST PERSON EVER how can you stand to be near me you perfect, wonderful angel who I don’t deserve but love with all my life and I will want for nothing if only you stay with me”.

        No. Do not get sucked in. That is bad, bad, bad. Do not give him openings. Do not give him one last chance. I assure you, one last chance will magically become another, and another, and that thing he did upset me but it wasn’t that bad I guess he gets another chance…And here, by “chance”, I mean any form of contact. He’s been doing this for 8 years. Whether he is evil plotting Darth or just regular Darth, 8 years is more than long enough to know all your buttons and precisely how to push them.

        You are not a vending machine. Do not let him put his Darth quarters into you to receive his desired result.

        1. The openings can be so surprising. I’d expected anger. I’d expected drama. What I hadn’t expected was Darth opening up about (very real) childhood trauma for the first time in his life. Side effect, of course, was that I was cast in the role of therapist, that this was implicitly put forward as the reason for awfulness – and that everything, once AGAIN, ended up being about him and him alone.

      2. “The only way to stop someone from manipulating you is to stop letting it work.”


        In my experience from being in charge of a program… there are a lot of people who seem to learn only from experience. You can tell them what the rules are until you have no voice left, but as long as you still give them an exception for that time — because maybe they didn’t get it and how could you possibly not give them another chance — all they learn is that they can get away with it, and also often *how* they can get away with it. As long as it works, why should they change?

        The only real boundaries are the ones you enforce. Without needing them to understand why, if necessary, since manipulators often see reasons as just another thing to argue against or deny agreement on.

      3. “The only way to stop someone from manipulating you is to stop letting it work.”

        Yes. And that can be excruciatingly hard, especially when you’re the good and loving and nurturing (and self-sacrificing?) person the LW seems to be. Hence the no contact. Also hard, but with A LOT less risk. It’s selfprotection.

        I’ve been there with the Darth and the ‘oh my god I’m hurting him but I have to help him even though I’m hurting him because he’s hurting me!” instinctual thing. The unfucking of this mental disconnect, afterwards when I was safe, turned out to be crucial to me and my wellbeing.

    4. It is most likely that Darth knows exactly what he is doing — nobody gets good at something without being in control of it, and Darth is definitely in control. This is just more of the ‘poor guy, so clueless’ nonsense. Can’t wash a dish, can’t pay a bill, can’t talk with words, can’t stop sleeping around, can’t stop cleverly manipulating — well, sure he’s had at least five years of being told what he’s doing wrong, but still, most likely he’s just clueless!

      This is not an out that any Darth should be offered, and that its a guy offering cover to another guy (but Reformed Guy! Absolutely Reformed! Not here to throw dust!) doesn’t really surprise me. But can we not agree with this gent-friendly “most likely scenario”, or offer it so much as a ‘maybe’? Because no.

      1. This is not an out that any Darth should be offered, and that its a guy offering cover to another guy (but Reformed Guy! Absolutely Reformed! Not here to throw dust!) doesn’t really surprise me

        Even if …the Darth is clueless about what he’s doing, that does not make him any less harmful, any less hurtful, any less dangerous.

        I’m not sure how you can read that sentence and see it as “offering cover” or as “an out”.

        But can we not agree with this gent-friendly “most likely scenario”, or offer it so much as a ‘maybe’?

        I present most manipulators as lacking self-awareness, ignorant of their own motivation, and doing considerable harm to those they claim to love. I state these people are harmful, and once identified, state they should not be given further opportunities for harm. While I do think they do need to learn better behavior, that responsibility is on them, and not their current or future partners.

        Not sure how you’re getting “gent-friendly” from all that. At no point do I say “this person is nice and you should be their friend/keep dating them/stay in touch with them/try to help them”. I actually said the opposite. In bold letters. And all caps. Right at the start.

        There are a couple of reasons why I believe it’s the most likely scenario: people rarely think of themselves as villains, most of our social interaction strategies aren’t the product of deliberate planning and research, and self-deluded earnestness is a lot more persuasive than masked contempt. It’s not the only possibility, but it’s especially appropriate for this letter.

        The whole “Darth Vader Boyfriend” trope is about being with a bad partner, but “I can feel the good inside him”. The point of what I posted is to illustrate that manipulative people don’t have to be mustache-twirling villains, that seemingly nice people can do bad things without conscious malicious intent. What matters is that they’re doing bad things and you should avoid them.

        I’m sorry if my personal confession confused or misled you; I don’t identify with these men, and I don’t work to excuse them. I try to expose them, to make explicit the mechanisms they use to manipulate and to dispel the notion that intent or character somehow offsets bad behavior. The idea that someone must be deliberate and malicious to be manipulative is fundamentally harmful to the victims of manipulation, because it shifts the focus away from the observable bad behavior into a subjective evaluation of a person’s character, and that is providing cover.

        1. Kudos to this. Dividing the world into Manichean sets of “Good people” and “manipulators” with no shades of grey actually makes it harder to spot manipulation in people you’ve seen be “good” in every other aspect.

        2. Yup, it’s exactly the same as some of the discussions around racism at the moment. Many (most) racist people are actually decent people who love their families and friends, do good things for those they care about, contribute to society, yadda yadda.

          But they have this fucked-up behaviour! It’s not “out of character”, because it is their character, but it can be so hard to figure out, because of their “goodness” in other ways.

          My mother is this kind of racist. She actually taught me to treat people as they are, and that there are both awesome and shit people at all levels of society. And yet, there is the annoying, stupid and pointless racism. Like friends I have who suffer from annoying, pointless and stupid persecution complexes, or who annoyingly, pointlessly and stupidly lie about all kinds of things, constantly (I used to be one of the latter).

          Yes, some people truly are “bad”, in terms of their fucked-up-ness being utterly pervasive. No dealing with those people, other than warning others and not creating Missing Stairs. Others have That Thing that only they can get rid of, given enough self-awareness and work. For the rest of us, we can only gauge the effect of That Thing on our lives, and either deal with it in small doses or avoid completely. But we can’t fix That Thing for those people.

        3. I’m not confused; the only misleading statement I commented on was the insistence that manipulators are unaware of their actions — that would be the definition of an ‘out’. The malicious acts described by the LW are intentional, and the long-term misrepresentation, lies and gaslighting make it clear that her Darth knows exactly what he’s doing, and why — because he wants to. I strongly disagree that most manipulators are clueless as to their own intent. Frankly, since we tend to deal with them as victimizers, it doesn’t matter what their intent is. As you note, you feel a connection to the Darth lifestyle — I can understand you prefer to look on it as not deliberately toxic, but a manipulative person knows exactly what they want out of each situation — to compel someone else to act against their own best interests.

      2. “and that it’s a guy offering cover to another guy …”

        I respectfully disagree, Oregonbird – I don’t think RodeoBob is making excuses for another guy. I think he is just spelling out what manipulative people are like and why they do what they do – and also making the point that they are equally harmful to their target whether their manipulation is unconscious or intentional.

        For the record, I have known both types of manipulator – and seen both types of manipulation displayed by the same person. Added to that, most of the manipulators in my life have been female – so I wouldn’t reduce this to pure gender terms.

    5. The most likely scenario is that he does not realize how harmful his manipulative behavior is. Whatever system of interactions and cues he’s cobbled together over the years are probably mostly unplanned, stimulus-response algorithms of “I do this thing to get that result” without any real awareness of what he’s doing or why it works. He is probably as dishonest and manipulative with himself as he with you and the other women in his life*. Which means he’s going to be in complete denial, and not interested in what you have to say, only being upset with how you’re reacting to him now. All this course of action would do is continue your exposure to his manipulative behaviors.

      Yes, this is true. I actually began negotiation talks with a Darth boyfriend equipped with language from a therapist, who I’d started seeing to help deal with my supposedly outrageous overreactions to minor things, but who instead gently taught me that my feelings were real and my Darth was gaslighting, although she didn’t use that word. And the subsequent conversation with Darth literally went like this:
      Me: When I talk about my feelings with you, you have a tendency to minimize or dismiss them….
      Him: No I don’t. I don’t do that.
      Me: You, ah, you just did. I’m trying to tell you how your behavior makes me feel and you’re telling me you don’t do that behavior.
      Him: Well, I don’t know what your therapist told you, but I don’t see how it’s helpful…
      Etc. etc.

      And on it went. We stayed together for a month after that and I realized, indeed, any time I tried to address something hurtful he said or did, then he would insist that it wasn’t a problem, or it wasn’t HIS problem, or it wasn’t MY problem, or some such. And no matter what I explained, he would come up with some other narrative of why I was breaking up; sometimes he was the villain in his stories and sometimes I was, but they never reflected my version of events. And, many years later, when I have unilaterally cut off communication with him, he still reaches out past my barriers now and then–but never to say “I’m sorry,” which still wouldn’t be welcome but might at least demonstrate empathy. Naw, he reaches out with a lot of bravado and condescension as though he is being the bigger person and trying to make peace with an unreasonable, embittered woman.

      I know that when you get so intricately tied up with a manipulative man it can feel hard to get away. You may feel like you need to wean yourself off of him; you may borrow a trick from his book and lie to yourself that you’re weaning him off, trying to make it hurt less. But please, please consider not doing that. It doesn’t help. And while it is hard and it does hurt at first, the more distance you put between yourself and that relationship, the faster your life will get better.

      1. “And, many years later, when I have unilaterally cut off communication with him, he still reaches out past my barriers now and then–but never to say “I’m sorry,” which still wouldn’t be welcome but might at least demonstrate empathy. Naw, he reaches out with a lot of bravado and condescension as though he is being the bigger person and trying to make peace with an unreasonable, embittered woman.”

        THIS. My Darth was actually my childhood best friend, and another woman, and it was never an explicitly romantic relationship but my God, it went exactly like this when I cut off contact. She still writes to say that she is ‘keeping her promise’ to ‘stay in touch’ even though I have told that we are done and please to not contact me and have not responded since. I may not have the ‘integrity’ to put in the ‘bare minimum’ to maintain the very important relationship she let lapse for years after letting me know in every possible way that she despised me, but though I am abusive and cruel and irrational, she will keep reaching out to me until I see the error of my ways. Gah!

        I think Tolstoy was very wrong when he said that there was more variety in dysfunction than in happiness. I’m beginning to see that dysfunctional relationships are very, very predictable.

        Good for you getting out and holding that boundary!

  36. Right before Christmas, I broke it off with my ex-bf. At the time, I didn’t think he was a Darth, but now that the fog of constant unhappiness has lifted, I see more clearly the many ways in which he was a jerk.

    I had broken up with him once about a year prior to the final breakup, and I knew that I didn’t want any contact (because post-breakup contact is how I got sucked back in the first time!) When I decided finally to break up, I queued everything up. I broke up via text, since he didn’t check his home email very often, and I wasn’t going to send a break up note to his work email. Before I sent the text message, I set up filters to send both of his email addresses directly to the trash. Then I entered his number into the block list on my phone and *then* I sent the text. Everything was already blocked before he even got the message.

    I have received two letters from him by mail. I scanned the first 2 paragraphs of one and then sent him an email explicitly stating that he shouldn’t contact me again. I didn’t open the second one that came 6 weeks later. (The only reason I responded to the first one was that I realized I hadn’t clearly stated “don’t contact me” in my break up message.)

    It’s difficult. But it is so, so worth it. And I also worried if anyone else would ever want to be with me. That’s part of the reason it took so long to break it off. But now that I’m out…I kind of don’t care? I’m enjoying being alone and re-learning who I am on my own. At some point in the future, I might want to get involved with someone else, but if it never happens, it’s still better than where I was in my former relationship. There are worse things than being alone.

  37. LW, please don’t feel bad about being manipulated by a Darth as a grown woman well out of high school.

    I felt like such an idiot when I fell for an abuser’s playbook as a self sufficient woman in my late twenties. It felt so distinctly high school. In fact, I had seen abusers pull similar shit on my friends when I had been in high school, and I still didn’t recognise Darth for what he was until I realised that I needed to break up with him.

    (In fact, I think I even wrote something on the Captain Awkward forums about how he wasn’t really a Darth. There was too much good in him to be a Darth)

    But I had to remember that we all learn things at different times in life. I learned how great being single is and how to be self sufficient without a relationship in my early twenties, I’ve known women who didn’t experience the joy of independence until they got divorced in their thirties or fourties. Or who spent their twenties relationship hopping, only leaving a relationship once the next one was in sight and discovering singledom later in life.

    It also took me a long time to learn how to not baulk at commitment – while there are other people who learn what secure relationships look like in their teens and twenties.

    I feel like I’m waffling. But basically I want to say that I felt so embarrassed about falling for a Darth at my age and I want to jedi-hug you and tell you that you’re not alone and it’s okay to make mistakes at a different life stage to other people.

    I hope this made sense.

    1. I was in the same boat – I was in a very bad place when I entered the relationship with someone who had been a good mate, had been supportive, we shared a lot of interests yadda yadda, and who said they’d look after me when I got screwed over by life in several directions at once. Only it turned out that they were a manipulative bastard in the bargain, and their idea of the relationship was to make me dependent on them, not to rebuild my independence/courage/skills and bounce back from curve balls I’d been thrown.

      People who think ‘this will never happen to me’ (see: me before that relationship) haven’t met the ‘right’ abuser, the one that pushes all of _their_ buttons, the one that knows how to exploit every one of *their* fears and vulnerabilities. And it’s great that they don’t, I wish *everybody* was in that boat, but that’s not how life works. Very successful, highly intelligent people get taken in by conmen in their professional lives, and very successful, highly intelligent people get taken in by Darths in their private lives. If Darth puts in enough effort and skill into conning you, you will be conned, at least for a while.

  38. i feel like i should explain to him how what he’s doing is wrong, and maybe stay friends to help him through it?

    He doesn’t need or deserve this. But LW, is it really for him, though? Staying friends can seem like such an attractive idea when you’re contemplating losing a relationship, even one you know isn’t making you happy. Please, please, scan yourself thoroughly for evidence that you’d rather stay friends not for him but because you can’t quite bear to let him go altogether. This is a totally normal and understandable Feel. It’s also a very very bad idea. Make a clean break. It will hurt worse at the time, but Future You will be so very glad you did.

    1. I’m a big proponent of staying friends; the typical advice around here for complete cutoffs in most situations really doesn’t sit well with me. With that said though, staying friends is only an option if you actually are friends. With this guy, I don’t buy that for a second; he acts like a jerk, lies the way normal people breathe (hiding a wife for three years? Having some mystery talent to appear to be a good guy despite being a classic Darth Vader? Making repeated promises of change that never seem to show up? Actual friends don’t treat each other like that.

      This isn’t a problem of breaking up with someone who, romantic problems aside, is a friend. This is a problem of breaking up with someone who, romantic problems aside, is still a total jerkbag. Ending the relationship is the best response to the guy being a phenomenally terrible partner. Cutting all contact is the best response to the guy just being a shitwhistle in general.

      1. I was a big proponent of staying friends with people I’d dated when I was younger, mostly because I was in a social circle where not staying friends made it awkward for everyone else, so “staying friends with your exes” was held up as evidence of maturity and being a Cool Girl, and “not talking to your exes” meant you were Not Cool and also High Maintenance and a Drama Queen, etc etc. So I’ve spent the last ten years telling people that not being friends with exes is perfectly fine, because I hate that cultural narrative.

        You can want to stay friends with your exes, and that may well work for you as a general policy, but I don’t think one should be a *proponent* of something that is so incredibly context-dependent and personal.

        1. I was in the same cool-girl environment, and once I got out of it…well, of the exes I have from that time period, I’m on speaking terms with all of them. One I will only speak to in order to be polite at the one time per year that we are in the same place, one of them I’m friendly with but we don’t hang out or anything, and one of them I am friends with and see multiple times a year and chat with online almost daily.

          That list is in decreasing order of Darthiness and increasing order of how good those dudes were at chilling out and letting us both recover from the breakup without making it A Thing in our social circle. Guy I’m Polite To had a lot of problems but one of the problems was being a dick to me at parties after we broke up and then claiming I was being hurtful and dramatastic and Not Cool. It’s been almost 20 years and still, when I see him, I feel the creeping spectre of Not Being Cool behind me. Ugh. Fuck that noise.

          1. Oh, I sloughed most of the exes from that environment like dead skin on pedicure day, because it turned out that once I had a reasonable sense of my own worth, I was no longer interested in talking to most of them. I was still friends with a few of the people I dated for five and ten years afterward, but eventually I reached a point with all of them where they ended up rooted in a spot that I didn’t want to stay in. I really hate being told I’m being Not Cool when what I’m doing is protecting myself, setting reasonable boundaries, and daring to have preferences about the people with whom I surround myself.

        2. I think we might be assigning different levels of weight to the term “proponent”. In my case, I’m just saying that in the case of someone asking for advice, and absent particular information, that’s the default (much the way cutting contact is the recommended default around here). I’m definitely not saying that it is the only way to go, just that absent a specific reason to think that it won’t work (with reason #1 being that it didn’t), it’s the default. It’s also push back against a different cultural narrative, where exes are just assumed to be the devil incarnate, and not cutting contact is somehow wrong.

          I’m also saying that in this particular case, there’s an unending supply of specific reasons to think that it won’t work, most of which eventually boil down to this person being a god-awful friend to begin with. I’m saying that even people who aren’t on board with the site standard of contact cutting as default are very much on board with it in this particular case.

      2. I think most people in comments here are supportive of BEING friends with your exes, at least the ones that aren’t Darths. It’s just many people’s experience that after a breakup, the best way to be friends later is to go no-contact for a few months so the feels can recede. I’ve had an ex who I went back to being friends with almost immediately, but I’m also aromantic, so I’m a bit of an outlier there too. If I had to recommend a plan of action to a friend I’d recommend they not try to hang out with their ex for a few months to prepare a clean slate for future friendship. And sometimes when you do that, you realize that Ex wasn’t such a good friend after all, and without the drama and the romance and the dark sex magic they’re not all that attractive as friend material.

      3. I think the mistake that a lot of people make is in regarding “being friends” as a downgrade from a sexual/romantic relationship: “Oh, we’ll just take out the sex and the cuddling, and what’s left is “being friends”. No! Friendship is a whole different kind of relationship which is just as valuable and meaningful as a sexual/romantic relationship, and it’s something you have to create anew with an ex, not just flicking the switch from “we do sex and cuddling” to “we don’t do sex and cuddling.”

        What some people mean by “let’s stay friends” is just “let’s stay civil acquaintances”, which is not by any means necessary but can be a pretty sensible goal if you move in small enough circles that you’re likely to bump into each other. But that requires that it was a civil relationship with a reasonably equal power balance between you, and that you both have the space to process your hurt and your anger and your sadness separately. Trying to support each other through the pain of breaking up never works, because by definition neither of you are building the alternative resources you actually need to move on.

  39. LW, I loved my married-to-someone-else Darth desperately, and I believed he was the only person who could ever love me the way I needed to be loved, and the pain of walking away from him hurt worse than anything else I’ve ever done, for longer than anything else ever hurt.

    But three months later I was finding my own joy and peace and poetry again, even through the pain, and three years later I’m grateful every day — grateful to the point of tears when I read your letter — that I no longer have to wait around for someone else’s life, someone else’s late-night fights and shitty emails, that my passion goes toward a man who chose me and only me. That passionate love your Darth creates in you — it’s yours, not his, and you will carry it with you when you go. Promise.

    I’m a woman who works an intense and ambitious and well-paying job, by the way. Worked out great because my husband decided to stay home with the baby. (:

    Love and light to you.

  40. I have a lot of experience with Darth Vader boyfriends. I have two pieces of advice. First, i have never gone “cold turkey,” completely cutting myself off from someone. I would wean myself off the person first. I would stop the sex, or introduce “no” into the relationship in whatever way I could. (“No, sorry I’m just not up to seeing you tonight.”). Slowly, I would become less dependant on him, and he less dependent on me. Maybe this isn’t the healthiest way to do it, but it’s what i did, and it has worked.

    Second, if you do decide at some point to cut him off completely OR you want him to remain in your life but need help stopping the sex, check out this group: http://www.slaawomensgroup.org/.

    3rd, I believe we are all living life to our capacity. Meaning no one person or relationship is perfect and they(we) are all far from ideal. Extramarital relationships are not ideal; but for some, they offer a small bit of love, a short respite from loneliness.

    Good luck to you, no matter what you choose to do.

  41. You don’t even owe him a breakup.

    If you wanted to, you would be well within your rights to just … stop. Block him everywhere. Trying to break up with him previously didn’t seem to get heard. You’ve already said that you’d prefer to be done. Anyone who ignores multiple breakup attempts is not owed the courtesy of yet another formal announcement.

  42. If the LW’s Darth actually begs/demands/whines for an explanation, I’d say, “that you even need an explanation is an indication that this relationship is beyond salvage. We’re done here.”

    1. YES. Beautiful. Thank you.

      The guy kept the knowledge of his WIFE AND OTHER GIRLFRIEND from you for three years and has been failing to follow through on promises ever since then. Whether the reason is that he is genuinely too clueless at basic adulting to know that this is horrible behaviour or whether he knows and doesn’t care (I’m voting for the latter, but, honestly, it doesn’t matter) it means that this is someone to run very fast and far from, because he is not someone to be in a relationship with.

  43. I have no wisdom for you, LW. Just a truckload of empathy from someone sitting in a very similar boat right now. But I can give you this one bit of advice: listen to that statistically accurate love song. It made me feel a little better today. (Thanks, Captain.)

  44. lord, deliver me from the cultural narrative of ByronicSexManchines.

    LW, know what helps me? Make it ridiculous. I mean, take every smouldering look and turn it into Flynn Rider’s pouty-face. Does he had a signature dressing style? Draw a terrible picture of a monkey wearing those same clothes. Take every come-thither thing he says to you, every verbal hook, and imagine he’s saying it to Clint Eastwood. Darth’s pitching all the ways he will totally rock your world, meanwhile Clint’s making his angry granpa face from Gran Torino. Make it a joke because he is a fucking joke: this dudebro thinks it’s all right to monopolize your time and affection and give nothing back. And that, LW, is ridiculous because you are worth so much more than this guy is capable of giving.

    Men like your Darth get part of their power from perception: it is to his benefit that you continue to perceive him as the dark, brooding sith lord. Unmask his dorky Anakin-ness and deprive him of that power. It’s not a total solution, you’ll still have a lot of baggage to work through, but it will be a balm.

  45. LW, this guy likes the way your relationship currently is, and he’ll do what he can to keep it trundling along in this holding pattern. This is the kind of guy who tricked you into being his *second* mistress – seriously, *three years* before you found out he was married? And he was also cheating on both of you? AGH! He is a lying liar who lies, and he can keep it up with a straight face *long term*. This will not get better. In fact I will go so far as to say he’s a selfish butthole, who happens to be charismatic enough to keep you hanging.

    This dude is sucking up all the air in your emotional life.

    This guy has become a crappy addiction. He’s familiar now, after all this time. You’re used to him. He’s where you go for relationship stuff. That’s a hard habit to break, and having done it the opposite way I strongly endorse cold turkey at least to start with, and probably indefinitely. It’s not true that all other men will be intimidated by your success, and look, even if they were who wants to be with some crappy misogynist who needs nearby women to be small so that he can feel like a big man? Thankfully there are men who are neither disappointing liars, or crappy misogynists, so you don’t need to pick between the two.

    8 years is a lot of your life. Think about the plans you have for your future, the big, bright, intimidating to small-minded dudes plans. How does Darth fit with those plans? I’m going to go out on a limb and say if anything he’s probably stopping you from achieving some of them, especailly if one of those plans involve eventually having a stable family with maybe a child or two. And even if it doesn’t (it doesn’t have to), don’t you want to share your life with a bright, passionate, committed guy with big, bright, intimidating-to-the-small-minded plans rather than this not-really-there shitty dude who lies and never changes? Or, how about a future where you just go for your big, bright, intimidating-to-the-small-minded plans on your own and they are awesome and you’re not held back by this constant fog of disappointment and sadness that’s always lurking in the back of your mind? Quit this guys as if he was a pack a day smoking habbit, because that’s about the level of good he brings to your life.

    1. I should also say, you are not to blame for not knowing he was cheating for so long – I’m not mentioning it to criticise you. I mention it because of what it says about *him*. Think of all the lies, big and small, that he had to tell you day in and day out for *three years* to successfully conceal the fact that he was married and also cheating with yet another woman. Think about how convincing he was, for how long. That’s not a little thing or a hapless mistake, that’s an appalling campaign of misinformation conducted on presumably at least two (probably three) women. People who lie that well for that long to people close to them are frightening. Odds are good he’s using the exact same lying skill when he promises all the stuff you want to hear.

  46. You have stated that you are worried that you may not ever be able to find another man who loves you. I concur with the various commenters above that this is highly unlikely. However, this is irrelevant, because even if the stars align and the aliens abduct every man from the earth and you wind up single forever, it has got to be preferable to being in a relationship with a guy who cheats on you, uses you to cheat on his wife, lies to you, manipulates you, and refuses to respect your boundaries.

    Even if you are single forever, you will have your friends. You will have your career. You will have your hobbies. You can even acquire children and build a family, if this is a thing you are interested in. Do not let the fear of being single keep you from force-pushing your Darth Vader out of your life, because being single can be pretty awesome, and your situation is decidedly not awesome.

    1. “You have stated that you are worried that you may not ever be able to find another man who loves you.”

      I would also point out that from the description of Darth’s behavior, that he *doesn’t* actually love the LW.

      1. This. My last thought for LW is to go get tested for STD’s. The circle of the conned and the casual sex partners is probably larger than you’ve seen, and this could have left you vulnerable.

  47. I had such a Darth. The only way I managed to finally break things off for real (instead of the four or five break ups I tried before that which somehow never seemed to stick) was by reading Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. It’s a book about abusers, and when I saw my Darth’s pattern laid out so clearly, it was impossible to ignore the reasons next to them. I’d been saying to my friends things like “Okay, it’s *likely* that he said he can’t make plans this weekend because he’s seeing someone else, but it’s *possible* he’s telling the truth about being busy with work.” Even though I knew statistically he was a horrible love interest, that one percent ray of hope kept beckoning. The book killed that ray of hope dead, and I am forever grateful to it.

    An excerpt from the “Player” abuser profile:

    Chronic infidelity is abusive in itself, but the Player doesn’t stop there. He is irresponsible, callous in dealing with his partner’s feelings, and periodically verbally abusive. As the relationship progresses, he may start to go for long periods giving his partner next to no attention and barely speaking to her, so she feels shelved. He probably refuses to take responsibility for safe sex (such as using a condom), and he may have fathered children who he is not supporting. His abusiveness can escalate abruptly if he is confronted or caught in his infidelities, and he may turn physically frightening at this point. In a strange but dangerous twist, the Player sometimes hits his partner for catching him cheating rather than the reverse.

    The Player’s constant flirting and cheating help him to get away with other forms of mistreatment. His partner is likely to focus on her hurt feelings about his infidelities and pour effort into stopping him from straying and, in the process, lose sight of his pattern of abuse. When she asks me whether I think her partner will ever settle down and be faithful to her—if they get married, for example—I answer, He may some day, but what you will have then is a faithful abuser. His promiscuity is a symptom of a deeper problem: He is incapable of taking women seriously as human beings rather than as playthings. With that mind-set, he’ll be a destructive partner whether he cheats or not.

    The central attitudes driving the Player are:

    – Women were put on this earth to have sex with men—especially me.

    – Women who want sex are too loose, and women who refuse sex are too uptight. (!)

    – It’s not my fault that women find me irresistible. (This is a word-for-word quotation from a number of my clients.) It’s not fair to expect me to refuse temptation when it’s all around me; women seduce me sometimes, and I can’t help it.

    – If you act like you need anything from me, I am going to ignore you. I’m in this relationship when it’s convenient for me and when I feel like it.

    – Women who want the nonsexual aspects of themselves appreciated are bitches.

    – If you could meet my sexual needs, I wouldn’t have to turn to other women.

  48. Thought process as of about two minutes ago when reading the bulleted list of really excellent “Ways to Handle Feelings That Aren’t Having Sex With Darth,” was something like, “Oh I should read that. Oh I should pick that back up. OH PLEASE BE THE TIM MINCHIN SONG PLEASE BE THE TIM MINCHIN SONG PLEASE BE THE TIM MINCHIN SONG.”

    It was the Tim Minchin song.

  49. ‘and maybe stay friends to help him through it’

    Even if he was the loveliest person on the planet, and you had a great, healthy, relationship, and you deeply wanted to be friends with him after, you are usually pretty much the last person on earth who should or even can ‘help him through’ his breakup *from you*.

    I’m sure exceptions can happen, but telling someone you don’t want to be with them and then immediately encouraging them to look to YOU for emotional support as they go through the often process of separating themselves emotionally FROM YOU sounds at best ineffective and at worse cruel.

    This is one of the things the LW said that made me wonder if she actually wanted to break up with him or just thought she should, because it seems a little like trying to give lip service to the idea of breaking up with him, while keeping him close and trying to not break up with him… I kind of fits in light of mentioning that in the past she’s more than once decided to break up with him but keeps changing her mind and ‘not letting it stick’, it reads to me as someone who is very conflicted and half wants to break up, but when it comes down to it doesn’t really want to.

    To me it seems like her first challenge is going to be to make clear with *herself* what she wants.

  50. My Darth and I met when we were six (he wasn’t a Darth, yet). I finally, finally, finally cut contact completely when I was 20. I’d been trying to break contact for 4 years at that point, and I’d never succeeded for more than about 6 months.

    I still miss him. I still hear his voice, and sometimes there are jokes I want to share with him. For some of us, even though we know exactly how bad our Darth is, we will never stop missing them, or at least, the version of them that we wanted to believe was true, even though that version either never existed, or hasn’t for a very long time.

    I also believed that he was the only one who would ever love me or find me attractive. Delightfully, I was proved wrong. I met my partner about 3 months after the final break-up, although at that point, the Darth and I still occasionally talked. My partner was super worried every time I talked to Darth, usually because I then became an emotional wreck for several weeks after an hour’s conversation. The only ultimatum my partner has ever laid down is that I would stop talking to Darth, or he would leave. I needed another Jedi’s help to get out and stay out, and that provided it.

    You will meet someone wonderful, someone who isn’t a Darth. But talking to the Darth at all lets them get their hooks back in. In fact, it usually, somehow, will become all your fault that they are sad, and really you just misunderstood, and they mean it when they say they’ll change this time. No. They mean that they will get their hooks back in you and continue to fuck up your head.

    I would suggest breaking it off by email. That way, you can call and get his number blocked before you send the email, as well as blocking him on all social media, with the email being the final thing that you would need to block. Do not give him a chance to respond after the email. That’s why blocking every other method first can help. I still have my blocks for Darth up. I will likely never take them down, largely because my Darth would try to contact me, at least on my birthday, and I’m tired of years spending birthdays crying because he wanted to remind me that he was there.

  51. i feel like i should explain to him how what he’s doing is wrong


    He’s spent eight years happily ignoring you except to make reassuring mouth-noises to keep his access to you while you go through the rounds of “he has a wife” “he’s affecting my job” and “he moved away but keeps me around for weekend fun”, bringing you to the culmination of “I’ve been telling him I’m unhappy and want things to change for years but he’d be utterly shocked if I actually broke up with him so I could stop being unhappy”.

    Forget why, how? How are you imagining that anything you have to say to him will make him change? Will he promise to change like he has in the past? You’ve seen how well that works.

    You are being Luke and not the Emperor. Know what Luke did? He went around carrying on about how “There’s good i nhim, I’ve felt it, give him another chance” while Darth was cheerily murdering people and smugly expecting that when it came down to the line, Luke wouldn’t actually object in any meaningful way.

    Screw Luke. Let someone else by Kenobi. I promise you can find another movie.

    1. Be Leia. Leia said ‘this shit stops and I will stop it Princess General Leia runs the rebellion and the galaxy and has amazing hair. She doesn’t wait around hoping for Darth to see the light. She’s got too much to do for that shit.

    1. This! So much this! Keep score by what he does, not what he says. I learned this lesson nearly twenty years ago, and I still find it invaluable. What we say is only a placeholder for future actions; what we do is what matters.

  52. I commented earlier about my former darth but I wanted to add another thing. You will cut off ties with this douchecanal (YOU CAN DO IT) and he will show up at your residence.

    I don’t know if you have a house or an apartment but if it’s an apartment it might be worth mentioning to your neighbors that you broke up with this person they’ve probably seen around and you would appreciate it if they didn’t let him into the building or talked about you to him in any way. I know that sounds serious but this guy is most certainly not going gentle into that good night.

    If you have a house, might I suggest taking a vacation (if possible), staying at a friend’s or inviting someone (hopefully a snarky someone that brings wine) to stay with you? Not only would the company keep you from falling back into his trap but another person around often deters their behavior. Darths thrive on keeping their bad behavior on the down low and scatter from supportive people like silverfish when you turn on the bathroom light.

  53. LW, there are 7 billion people in the world. 7. BILLION. That’s a bigger number than most of us can imagine.

    NOT ONE of those people has only one person who will ever want them. Not one. Maybe it feels that way, because for the last 8 years you have only wanted one person. But the very fact that among those 7 billion people you managed to find one who wanted you for EIGHT YEARS (I am in my mid thirties and have never managed this feat!) goes to show that it’s a lot easier than it feels. By the way, anyone who is threatened by you essentially being your own person rather than their puppet is not good for you. Or anyone, really.

    And even if your guy is a Darth, it would be wrong to stay with him just because there’s nobody better around. That’s unfair on both of you.

    I think you know you need out, and that it doesn’t have to be a complicated break up. If it “doesn’t stick” it means one or both of you is leaving wiggle room somewhere. Eliminate the wiggle room as far as you can by blocking all communication with him. Even if you want to stay friends, it is REALLY healthy to have a no-contact period of several months before that happens, or things will almost certainly get icky and boundaries blurred.

  54. I’m a fan of Ship Your Enemies Glitter with the message, “I’m breaking up with you. I have made the unilateral decision to end our relationship. Your input on the matter us unwanted and unnecessary. Do not contact me.” and preemptively blocking him everywhere/blanking him if he ever turns up IRL.

  55. Oh LW, I feel you. I dumped my very own Darth some years back, after almost eight years together.

    Not gonna lie, it was excruciating.

    It was like I chewed a limb off to escape a beartrap.

    It was 100% worth it, and it was unquestionably the hardest thing I have ever done.

    You deserve better than to be stuck in a beartrap, and it’s not gonna open of its own free will. You gotta get yourself out. To hell with the beartrap, don’t worry about its feelings. Save yourself.

    There are a bunch of great comments above. I just wanted to chime in and say: you are not alone, you owe him nothing, and you can do this.

  56. Nothing is what you owe
    Dear letter writer
    Nothing, nothing, nada, zilch
    Sing it with me now
    This ode to the absolute nothing of nothings

    Promises are easy to make
    Even easier to break
    And eight years is a long long LONG time
    I’d say, for friendship or otherwise
    He’s had a bucket-ton of chances, has he not?

    A smile is what you owe
    To yourself
    Smiles, joy and freedom from manipulative Darths
    But to this guy
    You owe nothing. Double nothing. Nada.

    PS: There is a chance he might try to force a meeting by claiming he has left some of his items at your house. If it’s true it would be better to just mail him the lot along with the break-up message before he gets any ideas. Kateedoo’s suggestion of letting neighbours/landlord know he isn’t welcome inside or anywhere near your house is also spot on.

  57. Oh OP, I am so sorry.

    As a person who went through their own prolonged relationship with Darth Vader and now happily has him out of their life, trust me, IT’S WORTH IT.

    Mine was helped a lot by the fact that we only had snail mail communication as he was in jail in a different state when I finally got rid of him and I had support of a lot of really AWESOME friends and family that helped shelter me. But it IS possible and DEFINITELY worth it. Please do so as soon as possible. And remember if you need support, the CA forums are here for you.

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