Ahoy there Captain!
My boyfriend, who I met online through a mutual friend, and I have been dating for about two years now. When we first started talking online, we lived on opposite sides of the country and were in a long distance relationship for over a year before I decided to move to the same city as him. (We each have our own place, though.) Due to his job he was unable to move to my city, so I decided to be the one to move. I had fallen out of touch with many of my friends from back home for varying reasons and had a job that was just okay, so aside from the fact that it was expensive, the move wasn’t too hard on me.
Now, about eight months after moving here, I am falling out of love with my boyfriend. He hasn’t done anything wrong – in fact, in many aspects, he’s a fantastic partner. But the days are fewer and more far between that I can see myself having a future with him. I rarely feel any sexual attraction towards him, and more and more things about the relationship are becoming things that I don’t see myself being 100% cool with in the future. (He’s not really excited about the prospect of kids, he’s not close with his family, we have incompatible sex drives, etc.)
I’ve talked with him briefly about how I don’t feel totally satisfied with the relationship, but with the holiday season in full swing as well as a vacation we’re taking together in the near future, we decided to push things under the rug. However, at this point I’m feeling pretty confident that this relationship isn’t meant to last.
However, my fear (and by extension, the underlying question of this email) is that without him in my life, I am completely alone. I have no friends here, and all of my friends that I do have are either in a mutual friend group with my boyfriend or live very far away. I’m worried that I will essentially hole up in my apartment and never leave because I have no one with whom to do activities. (As a sufferer of depression, this fear is only increased.) I don’t like the idea of spending that much of my time alone. And, of course, while I do not feel this relationship is working out, I do care for my boyfriend a lot and would miss him so, so much. (I would love to stay friends, as he is genuinely one of the best friends I’ve ever had, but I’m not sure if that’s possible.)
Do you have any advice on how to go about this? I’m not even sure how to break up with him, let alone what either of us will do afterwards. It’s funny- I can’t see him being my partner forever, but I also can’t imagine my life without his friendship.
Thanks a bunch!
-Moving on after moving away
Dear Moving On:
You can’t insta-create a new social circle and new close friends right this second, and you can’t guarantee a friendship with your boyfriend after you break up with him, but there are five things you can do to give yourself a softer and less lonely landing.
One: Contact at least one old friend from back home and wish them happy New Year. Don’t agonize about how long it’s been since you last talked or whose turn it was to call whom or whether you left things in a weird place when you moved. Do you like this person, miss this person, want good things for them? Great! It’s the season where you can put a note in the mail or call someone or use either the Time or the Book of the Face and say, “Hello, friend, happy new year, I miss you, let’s catch up soon?” The catching up doesn’t have to be deep or involve “support” or being a sounding board about the breakup. Make contact.
Two: You say you’ve got depression, so, are you treating it like the illness that it is? Need a meds check-in or to put some counseling resources in place? If not, time to work on it. You don’t have to let the bottom fall out of everything to deserve mental health care and support.
Three: It was a great idea to get your own place. This was you putting a safety net in place for exactly this eventuality. Invest a little energy into making sure you’re moved all the way in and that the place really feels like home to you, whether that’s a thorough tidy, making sure all the moving boxes are out and that things are hung on the walls, getting a new houseplant, cooking a great meal just for yourself. Some ritual that says that this is home.
Four: Schedule a weekly activity that happens with your fellow human beings that you attend without your soon-to-be-ex or your friends from that social circle. Could be volunteering, a MeetUp group that goes to the movies or knits or plays board games or whatever your hobby is, could be a class and/or trying out something new. Extra double bonus points if it’s something that your soon-to-be-ex is not particularly interested in, that can be just yours alone. You may make new friends there and you may not – time will tell. For now, it’s about knowing that you can’t hole up and become a hermit because you’ve got 8 classes in woodworking scheduled for the next 2 months.
Five: Stop thinking of your shared-with-boyfriend new city friend circle as a group and look at them as individual people. Do you have a favorite person or two? Are any of them true friends or people with real friend potential? Great. Invite them out, one by one. Breakfast. A trip to the art museum. A play. Enjoy their company. Be a good friend to them.
None of these things on their own are going to replace your relationship with boyfriend or making breaking up with him magically not hurt for a while, but, he’s not the only person who will ever like or love you. You deserve mental health support, you deserve to be happy in your home and in your new city if you decide to stay there, you deserve friendships that sustain you and delight you.
P.S. You don’t have to go on that vacation with your boyfriend if it’s hanging over your head and making you feel stuck. You could break up this week and go single and free into 2017. “You are so important to me and one of my dearest friends, but I don’t think the romantic part of our relationship is working anymore, and I’d like to end it.”
Read on for #928:
Thank you so much for your solid advice and your delightful wit. I’ve been reading your blog for years now.
I can’t figure out if I’m a bitter man-hatting nut job “BMHNJ” or if this guy I recently started seeing is a piece of work. I’m 36, have seen some sh*t from dudes, and I worry I’m projecting unacceptable past behavior onto perfectly nice men. Also, I have a hard time saying “no.” I deflect and soft-pedal, and when that doesn’t work, “NO!! RWWOOARRR” when an up-front and clear “no thanks, maybe next time” is more appropriate.
Maybe-lovely guy (“MLG”), whom I met off of the internet, is immediately brimming with over-the-top compliments, planning future dates. BMHNJ warns he must have ulterior motives. Moreover, he is more handsy than I’m comfortable with, though I don’t say anything. My inner rational woman (“RW”) suspects that it’s my insecurity that finds the up-front affection discomforting. He seems kind, and is attractive.
MLG wants to see me again right away, but when I say “I want to work tonight, how about after 8?” he pesters. MLG: “I want to see you NOW, you’re amazing” For an hour we text back and forth about it. BMHNJ feels manipulated. RW suspects I’m just being crabby, and why did I get so angry anyway? Why didn’t I just put the phone on silent and do my work?
Date 1 – MLG pushes me to come over his apartment. I’m a NOPE (stranger danger!) Date 2: ditto. Irritated that I have to deflect the invite a couple of times. Date 3: I “cave.” Nothing terrible happens. Turns out he he’s not into sex until a committed relationship. RW: “You cynically assumed he was a dog. He’s not! And why do you think you’re “caving?” He probably would have been happy with a clear “thanks, but no thanks.” People are OK with being told “no.””
Date 4-5ish: MLG nags me for an invite to my apartment. I balk – “I’m not ready for some guy I just met to know where I live.” MLG pushes back, saying he really likes me and so of course wants to see where and how I live. I actually tell him: “well, yeah, but stealing’s not the worst thing a man could do to a chick.” MLG is obviously insulted and hurt. BMHNJ turns into RW (if he was rapey he would have done that at his apartment the last time) and lets MLG come over. Nothing bad happens. except for the mansplaining.
MLG is full of unsolicited advice about how to prep dinner, how to properly take public transit, how to trim a dog’s hair. BMHNJ feels controlled and tells him as much. MLG says BMHNJ is “harsh” and “mean” and that he “just wants to be helpful.” The usual.
When BMHNJ adds things up, she feels like this dude might turn into abuser. But … RW says he’s sweet. he’s in tune with emotions. he loves his kids. he fixes my favorite food. He asks about my day, my work. BMHNJ is gonna throw away every good thing that comes out of fear and anger and a little mansplaining.
How do I trust my own judgment that some dude might be bad news?
RW or BMHNJ?
Hello! Thanks for the nice words!
My advice: TGINNEBHAPAANQRFYAWYFSWIYPWNSMA
i.e. This Guy Is Not Necessarily Evil But He’s Also Pushy, Annoying, And Not Quite Right For You And When You Find Someone Who Is You Probably Won’t Need So Many Acronyms.
Whatever his intentions might be, he’s continually making you uncomfortable and overstepping your boundaries and spending time with him makes you feel off-balance. He’s like a walking #NotAllMen display, who doesn’t get that while HE may be Good and Pure of Heart and Not Rapey, there are very real reasons you might be cautious when you’re first getting to know a someone. You’re allowed to set your own safety thresholds for any reason at all! In my opinion, good men don’t interpret reasonable caution from women as a personal insult to their honor.
The main red flags for me are:
- Repeatedly failing to take “no” for an answer.
- Trying to move the relationship along very quickly.
- Instead of being happy & relaxed and feeling safe and having fun, you’re calling yourself names and wondering what’s wrong with you.
- Life is too short to be mansplained at in your own goddamn home.
You wrote me a little while back, so maybe things have improved, but if they haven’t and you’re still feeling torn, I recommend the “Sorry, I’m just not feeling it” breakup (without further explanation or reasons – a dude who responds to “After 8?” with “No, NOW!” will most definitely argue with your reasons).
Please don’t beat yourself up for enjoying the attention of someone who is very interested in you. Dating is for figuring out whether you want to keep spending time together and a mirage looks just like a real oasis until you’re close enough to drink the water.
Tell yourself this story: You met someone interesting and gave it a try. It wasn’t quite right, but it felt good sometimes and reminded you why you put yourself through the whole “dating” thing. This was practice, and thanks to the time you spent with this guy you have a better idea of your boundaries and wishes. He’ll be just fine without you, and somewhere out there there is someone who is all the good things this guy is, plus some even better things, minus the stuff that annoys the ever-loving shit out of you.