Dear Captain Awkward,
I’m writing you, because I feel like I am stuck and I don’t know what to do.
So, I’ve been with my boyfriend for about a year and a half now, but for the last 6 months or so, I’ve thought about breaking up with him. I love him, he’s a great person, and it feels good and safe to be with him. But I am simply not in love with him anymore, and even though I know it is normal for a relationship to lose some of the spark it had in the beginning, I can’t help but feel like I am somehow wasting my time staying in this relationship.
But here’s my problem: First of all, in many ways my boyfriend is very dependent on me, as he doesn’t have a lot of close friends in the city where we live and his family lives at the other end of the country. He has told me that he went through a long period of depression a few years back because of feelings of loneliness and his job situation at the time. While the job situation has gotten a lot better since then, he still has very few friends that he can really talk to, and I sometimes feel like he is putting a lot of pressure on me to spend more time with him.
He constantly tells me how much he loves me, and sometimes he’ll say things that makes it seem like I am the only source of happiness in his life. While I know this is not true, I feel really scared of what will happen to him if we break up.
To make things worse, his brother is getting married next week and he’s told me how much he is looking forward to me being there with him. But I just feel like a voice in my head is screaming NO!, whenever I think about it, because I don’t feel comfortable going at all with all these thoughts about breaking up in my head. But I also don’t want to hurt him right before his brothers wedding day.
So I guess my question is: How do I break up with my boyfriend without feeling like a horrible person?
All the best,
A confused Dane
Dear Confused Dane:
There’s no awesome time to get dumped, but let me make the case that now, soon, before his brother’s wedding day is the best possible time to break up with your boyfriend:
- That voice in your head is screaming ‘NO!’ is a friendly voice that loves you. Its screaming will only grow louder the closer you get to faking your way through a big family party. What happens when some well-meaning relative asks you, in front of everyone, “When will YOU TWO be having YOUR BIG DAY?” and you’ve had a few drinks so you yell “NEVERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!” in front of everyone?
- You’re worried he’ll be lonely and have no one to talk to, but a week he’ll go to the wedding and be around his family, where he can be petted and comforted by them. You’ll get that weekend to yourself to do your own grieving and recovery.
- If you do the breaking up now (and bow out of going to the wedding) you won’t be in all the photos of the event that the family will frame and look at forever.
If you break up now, you might hear “I can’t believe you did this right before my brother’s wedding!” If you do it afterward, you’ll hear, “If this is how you felt, why didn’t you tell me before we went to my brother’s wedding?” If he doesn’t want to break up with you, it will always be the wrong time for him – the summer solstice, his birthday, your birthday, the cat’s birthday, that important Work Event y’all RSVP’d to, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Maundy Thursday, etc.
You’re worried about triggering his depression and it’s true that stressful life events can kick off a depressive episode for people who suffer from depression, so the end of an important relationship might send him to a difficult place. So can the change of seasons, hormonal changes in the body, certain medications and a million other factors that we don’t know about. Part of dealing with depression is learning to handle its recurring, cyclical nature and to put in place treatments like therapy and medication for when things get hard. I’ve had depressive episodes after hard breakups, but in no way was the person breaking up with me at fault for that!
Additionally, if he feels sad and lonely after you leave he has many choices about what to do, from calling a counselor, talking to his family, talking to the few close friends he does have, writing sad poetry, taking long walks, and doing the slow, awkward growing that we all do when our lives change and we have to go inside ourselves for a while. Bottom line: You can neither prevent his depression indefinitely nor cure it with continued reluctant girlfriending.
We have got to teach young people, ourselves, our friends, and everyone we know some things about love, loss, and loneliness:
- Breaking up with a romantic partner is not the end of the world.
- Disappointing someone (by breaking up with them) is not the end of the world.
- Being in a romantic relationship is not a cure-all for everything that’s hard in life.
- Love does NOT conquer all when two people are incompatible and don’t make each other happy.
- You can’t logick or argue someone into loving you and you can’t logick or argue yourself into loving someone even if you can put together a really good case about Why We Should Be Together.
- Romantic love is not the only important kind of love. We need lots of kinds of love and connection in order to be happy and healthy, and we need to value those connections at least as much as we value romance.
- If you choose to make your partner your sole source of companionship and emotional support, that doesn’t create an obligation for them to be that sole source for you. Resist the Siren Song!
- “You’re the only source of happiness in my life” is not a compliment, it’s a snare.
Here’s your breakup script, should you choose to deploy it:
“[Boyfriend], you are a great person and very important to me, but my feelings have changed and I am ending our romantic relationship.
I’m so sorry to do this to you right before the wedding. I know you were looking forward to being there together very much, but I also know that I can’t attend that event with you feeling the way I do.”
Take responsibility (my feelings have changed), tell him what is happening (I am ending the romantic relationship), and address the “upcoming wedding” elephant in the room (I won’t be going).
He’s going to say some stuff, like:
- “How long have you felt this way?”
- “Why are you leaving me?”
- “Did I do something wrong?”
- “How can you do this to me right before my brother’s wedding?”
- “Can’t you at least come with me?”
- “Won’t you reconsider?”
- “But you’re the only person in my life, what will I do now?”
- “Is there someone else?”
None of these are wrong questions or terrible or mean things to say. These are pretty normal reactions to being broken up with “out of the blue” (how it will seem to him). I think the right thing to do when he asks them is to thread the needle between Honesty and Too Much Honesty. For example, you say you’ve been out of love with him for about 6 months, so if he asks “How long have you felt this way?” does he really need to know that you’ve been sort of faking it for a third of your relationship? Or would “A while – I wanted to give us a chance so I waited until I was sure about how I felt” get the job done? Now is not the time to list all the annoying stuff he’s ever done or to try to convince him to change certain behaviors or attitudes, so if he asks why you are leaving him, you can keep reiterating “My feelings changed” or “I just know that it’s the right thing to do for me.”
Do watch out for “negs” from him, statements like:
- “I knew it was too good to be true.”
- “I knew you didn’t really care about me.”
- “I knew something like this would happen someday.”
- “I knew someone like you couldn’t really love someone like me.”
These kinds of self-pitying statements are designed to prompt you to argue with them and prove to him that they aren’t true…by maybe changing your mind about the breakup. You don’t have to give any answer if he says stuff like this, or you can just keep repeating, “I’m sorry, I know it hurts, but it’s the right decision for me.”
Say your piece, hear him out for a bit, cry it out a little, hug it out a little, and then make a plan to be somewhere else so everything can sink in. For example, if you live together, make a plan to spend the night at a friend’s place after you deliver the news so he can have some space.
It will probably be and feel awful, while it’s happening and right afterward. He will feel awful, you care about him, so you will feel awful. Also, don’t be surprised if it’s like that thing where you’ve needed a haircut for 2 months but the day of your hair appointment your hair suddenly looks AWESOME and you question all your decisions.There is grief and sad songs and second-guessing everything ahead, probably for both of you. Please believe that the awfulness will pass, for both of you. When people say “time heals all wounds” these are precisely the kinds of wounds that they mean.
Some bittersweet songs about leaving and saying goodbye to light your way:
(Guess what decade(s) I came of age and listened to the radio in!)
97 thoughts on “#975: “I want to break up with my boyfriend but I’m afraid of triggering his depression.””
Twice now, I’ve broken up with (different) men with complex mental health issues. The first time, I knew I’d fallen out of love with BF1, but I also knew he had a history of self-harm and suicidal ideation – I was scared that if I did this to him, that I’d push him into doing Something Stupid™, and I didn’t want to be responsible for that. As it happened, BF1 knew something was up, didn’t take the breakup badly, and we stayed friends, redefining our relationship to better suit who we were to each other.
The second time sucked a lot harder. BF2 needed more than I could give him given our mutual brain problems, and I realised that breaking up with him wasn’t going to be an if but a when, so I talked to close friends and decided to rip off the bandaid. It was hard, it was painful, and nothing I said made it any better or easier for either of us. He made assumptions about why I’d done this – that I’d decided this months ago and had been holding it back – and I wanted to defend myself and set things right, but the whole point of it was that I was cutting us off, so that would have been pointless. Don’t get a manicure when you’re about to amputate the limb.
I don’t know how BF2 is, or if he got the support he needed from his friends and family, and I hope he’s coping okay. But I broke up with him because I believed that was the best thing for both of us. I couldn’t do anything more to help him than that, so however he is, I did the most I could for him.
I feel for you, Ian. And I really like your “Don’t get a manicure when you’re about to amputate the limb.” It’s a great point!
My first long-term boyfriend threatened suicide when I broke up with him. Thankfully, I broke up with him when I was on summer vacation at home with my parents who coached me through it. I was hysterical when he said that and my mom gently pointed out that there was no way I could help him now as his ex-girlfriend – if he truly was having those thoughts, then he needed to hang up and call a hotline, family member, or friend who could help him through it. She also reminded me that I was not a trained psychologist, which was honestly what he needed (he also had some mental health issues).
I have never spoken with him again, but I saw very negative vague Facebook status updates from him for a while so I know ultimately he was ok. He is now married and he looks very happy in his pictures with his wife.
LW, it’s hard, but he will be ok. And if he won’t be ok, you still can’t help him – he needs other resources, like a therapist, hotline, etc. that is trained to handle cases like his.
My high school choir teacher’s preferred version of this saying was “don’t rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
LW, listen to the Captain. All the best to you!
Cap, I lament that I didn’t have your wisdom in my 20s. I plan to point all of the young men and women in my life to your website ad infinitum. Also, you should write a book! I would totally buy it.
LW, trust me when I say that it is far, far better to break up with him now, while you still have happy memories and good feelings toward him, than several months down the line, when you have been waiting for your feelings to change back for so long that they have stubbornly dug their feet so hard that they’ve burrowed all the way through the layer of resentment and bitterness.
Suffice to say my ex was also depressed and also such a great guy and someone I, at one point, genuinely wanted to spend the rest of my life with (additional helpful tip: do not mention this while you’re breaking up with him, especially if you’ve gotten to the point where you’re too emotionally tapped out of the relationship to cry, no matter how hard he’s sobbing. It will make you feel like an even bigger jerk after the fact).
Also, it is SO MUCH BETTER to do this now than before you have to face all his family. One of the most skin-crawlingly awkward moments of my adult life took place a few months before I broke up with my now-ex. His mother was in town, and we’d gone out to dinner with her. Before our food arrived, she raised her glass and made a toast: “Here’s to NTNA. I wish [Ex]’s grandmother had still been alive to meet you, because I know she would have loved having you be part of our family.” I downed most of my drink pretty quickly after that, because blurting out, “Actually, I’m not sure she would’ve appreciated how hard I’ve been thinking about dumping her grandson for, oh, a few months now in the slightest,” didn’t seem like the appropriate thing to do before we’d even gotten the appetizers.
In short, add mine as another voice to the, “Dump him NOW, or at least sometime before the wedding!” encouragement.
Sweet holy Jesus, do I know THAT feel. I got suckered into attending an event with my ex’s family AFTER we’d broken up, but somehow everyone thought we were still dating or maybe that we’d gotten back together, I dunno, but there was an uncle who was dropping major hints about how awesome kids are. Part of the reason Ex and I had split in the first place was that I had said, “Twenty-two would be kinda young to commit to having your ten zillion sprogs that you’re going to raise to all play the acoustic guitar, even if I wanted to do that which I don’t even a little, so let’s nope”. I spent a lot of the night with a frozen plastic smile glued in place and a drink always in hand and changing the subject every twelve seconds.
THIS. My first boyfriend dumped me, it sucked, we stayed friends, and six months later we were both still single and he wanted to try getting back together. I had never wanted to end the relationship in the first place, so I agreed. And then I realised pretty quickly that it was a mistake, that being his partner actually came with baggage I didn’t want to carry, and so the second time it was me who ended it. We still wanted to stay friends, and we agreed I would still go to his housemate’s birthday party the next weekend.
Reader, he had told told precisely ONE of his friends that we’d broken up again. I spent the entire evening fielding comments from ALL his other friends about how wonderful it was that we’d gotten back together, and how much happier he seemed. This happened in front of my ex several times, and he didn’t say anything. He just watched to see how I handled it. And I awkwardly smiled and nodded and said yes, it’s great isn’t it, because I was so well trained to be a “nice person” (hurk) who couldn’t possibly embarrass him like that in front of his friends.
Looking back now, I wish I’d tapped my glass with my fork, made a public announcement that I’d dumped him, picked up my shit and peaced the fuck out.
Well, that would have made for a more interesting party. 😛
Totally agree with you that being a “nice person” isn’t always nice at all, for yourself or for the people you think you’re protecting.
Ugh. I broke up with a boyfriend, avoided him and everyone we knew for a few months (mostly due to bad weather and illness, actually, but it looked like avoidance from the outside) and then when I finally showed up at the weekly social event we both attended, he had told nobody that we’d broken up and everyone was confused that I was staying away from him. I was too “nice” to just say straight out “no, we’re not together anymore” when people asked, too.
I was also too “nice” to tell him flat-out that I didn’t want to play board games with him and could he please go sit somewhere else? So for weeks, we played this weird game of chicken where he would wait to see where I sat down so he could join me and I would carefully try to find a game where I filled the last player spot, so he couldn’t. It made what was supposed to be a fun evening incredibly stressful.
Oof. My ex’s mother also dropped her fair share of hints about how cute kids are, and despite Ex’s and my mutual agreement that kids, uh, aren’t that cute to us, no matter how much acoustic guitar they can play (at least we had agreement on that going for us, even though there was precious little else toward the end!), I’m not sure if he ever told his mother of his/our plans to remain permanently childfree.
Luckily, the topic of her future grandbabies didn’t come up, even obliquely, the weekend that ex’s deceased grandmother came up in a toast, and I didn’t have to see her (or any of them, in fact) after I officially broke things off, so…yay for that?
I attended a friend’s wedding with a boyfriend that I loathed but wasn’t able to get out of the relationship with (I was trapped emotionally, mentally and physically at the time). I actually had an escape plan in motion and had arrangements to look for an apartment when I got back from the trip we were on for the wedding, since he was staying for an extra few days for business (giving me some freedom to look for an apartment without him knowing about it).
I spent the whole wedding with a fake smile on my face, screaming inside, and trying not to freak out while knowing that this was probably the last time I would ever see any of our mutual friends ever again (if my plan to escape was successful when I got home). And yes, people were asking about our future plans and marriage and whatnot, and it took everything in my willpower to not break down right there in front of them.
Don’t try to fake through a major social event where these kinds of expectations are likely to come out. It’s serious mental torture on yourself. 😦
Yowza, that sounds like one of the lower circles of Hell! At least in my case, it was just ex, his mother, and me, not a whole, like, wedding-ful of people. And I knew I *could* end our relationship at any time…I just…didn’t.
I hope you found your apartment and were able to get out of that relationship quickly!
I broke up with a serious college boyfriend (after some egregious infidelity on my part, because I didn’t know how to adult at the time). And at almost exactly the same time, his father gave him a 24″x36″ enlargement of a swimsuit shot of me that he had taken with his father’s camera and forgotten about. That picture has lived in my attic for the last 30 years. Don’t be me.
LW, your bf doesn’t want you to break up with him – but he probably doesn’t want you to go to a wedding with him out of pity either. That’s not doing him a favour, in fact it’s pretty humiliating (and would be humiliating for him once he realised you were planning your break up the entire time). Show him some respect and break up with him already.
Also, if he does want you to go with him out of pity (many of us want stupid things when we are sad), your desire NOT to go as a pity date is just as legit and carries the extra weight of being A Good Idea.
Yeah, what he really wants is for her to still be in love with him. The badness in his life has already happened; he just doesn’t know it yet, and he needs to know. There’s some tweaking that can be done with the timeline based on external factors, but really the only horrible way to break up is to deliberately make the timing bad (“Good luck with your thesis defense, fyi I won’t be here when you get back”) or to make him responsible for the changed feelings.
And LW, it sounds like the timing is just about perfect for this. He’s going to see family soon, he has some local friends, his job situation is good, it doesn’t sound like he’s in a particularly low spot depression-wise, and there’s no reason to believe he’ll be *less* dependent on you in another month, right? No one has to wait until the stars align for the not-yet-ex, but there’s nothing about his current situation that says there’s any benefit to faking it for another day.
For what it’s worth, I had an ex who dated me for two years, the entirety of which he was faking (according to the humiliating Reddit post he made in a subreddit he knew I followed closely), who is in my Momz’s wedding photos. Even though it’s been 3 years and I am over him and the breakup, whenever I see his face in those photos I am filled with a rage that might never go away.
My Momz getting married is, so far, one of the happiest memories of my adult life. And that dude’s face is in a lot of the photos my face is in.
So yeah, dump him before this because, I can confirm it suuuuucks.
Seconding this. I think the Captain’s advice is spot-on, but if for some reason you decide not to break up with him, I think it’d still be a really good idea to skip the wedding. That way, you won’t be in the photos, and you’ll get a weekend to chill by yourself and plan your life Post Dude instead of stressing about putting on a brave face. And when you do rip the bandaid off, he can’t accuse you of Ruining The Wedding.
I’m not suggesting sticking it out until after the wedding–I think the Captain’s right. But failing a pre-wedding breakup, skipping is probably the kindest option for both of you.
Nthing this. For the 6 months before my wedding, my best friend (D) was constantly on the verge of breaking up with his boyfriend (A), who was, frankly, pretty emotionally manipulative and not my favorite person. I even ordered an escort card that said “Guest of D” in addition to the one I ordered with A’s name because it seemed imminent…but D ended up breaking up with A the week *after* my wedding. A few weeks later when I got my photos back it turned out that A is in *every single* candid photo of D. Gazing at him adoringly. Leaning on him. Straightening his tie. Laughing at his jokes. Kissing him on the cheek. Toasting with him. Resting his head on his shoulder during a slow dance. The photos are fantastic, and D was pretty much recovered from the breakup by the time we got to see them, and yet, it’ll probably be a few years before A fades into the crowd of exes and D can comfortably enjoy the photos of himself, you know? It might seem trivial; it’s certainly not a reason to break up before the wedding if you’re really not ready to–but it *is* something to consider.
I’m sure you already figured this one out but if that Reddit post wasn’t made while the relationship was still fresh it’s highly likely that it was one big lie, made up to get under your skin and punish you for perceived slights. Sorry you had to deal with such an arseholeish action.
Long time reader, first time commenter here.
LW, your situation is extremely familiar to me – mostly because a year ago, I was on the other end of it. I had severe depression and was very much in love with my girlfriend of three years. Unfortunately, she did not feel the same about me. She broke up with me. It sucked. In fact, it felt so odd and out of the blue for me that I had to ask her when she’d realised her feelings had changed, and she told me six months ago. I think that hurt more than anything else – to know that for six months, she’d been (in my wounded, heartbroken perspective) completely faking her feelings while mine had not changed one bit.
Yes, I was sad, as one would expect. Yes, the depression did flare up. Yes, that hurt. But do you know what I did? I cried a lot. I journaled a lot. I leaned on my best friend and my therapist. I wrote sad poems. I went on many, many walks. I cuddled my dog. I took myself out to dinner. Learning how to exist in the world without a romantic partner was not by any means an easy thing, but it was an incredibly necessary one. Did the depression make it a hell of a lot harder to move on? Absolutely. Did I move on anyway? I did.
These days I have another girlfriend. I love her dearly, and I know she feels the same way about me. If my ex had not dumped me when she did, I would not have found this person who adores all of the quirks that drove my ex crazy. The parts of me that annoyed my ex, my current girlfriend thinks are beautiful. My ex is single and doing well. We are still close friends, we love each other dearly, and we are so much happier now that we’re not in each other’s lives in a romantic capacity.
LW, it hurts when someone you love rejects you. It hurts more when you have an illness that wants nothing more than for you to believe you’re unlovable. But the hurting is not the end of the world. Try to think of it this way: breaking up with your boyfriend is going to sting in the moment, but waiting any longer would be doing a disservice to both him and you. In the long run, this is how you grow into yourself and become the person you’re supposed to be. And this is how you free him to do the same.
Sending so much love & strength to you. You’ve got this. xox
That is beautifully written; thank you for sharing it and I hope it really helps the LW!
“hurting is not the end of the world.”
I was in the same position, the depressed partner being broken up with, a few years ago. I was 23 and it was my first ever relationship, and thus my first ever breakup. I remember, the day after, panicking at my mom because I was convinced I could feel my heart actually, physically breaking apart inside my chest. it was so incredibly, horrifically, acutely painful.
and it was also deeply, deeply painful for my ex. it took me too long to realize that, but in many, many ways she did care about me and this was not an easy thing for her to do. I absolutely made it harder on her, and also on myself and my depression, by requesting emotional support from her after the breakup- even though she had just broken up with me! she is an incredibly kind person, and she was very concerned about hurting me “too much” (fact: breakups often feel like they hurt “too much”, this is normal), so she did try to support me in a way I should have never asked of her. it made things harder for the both of us- it’s very hard to get over the loss of somebody if they’re there but not in the way you keep desperately hoping they were. it was so incredibly unfair to her, because during a time she should have been taking care of herself, I was demanding she take care of me, take care of my depression, my wants.
I still wish she had cut it off and been very firm about how it wasn’t her job to support me after she broke up with me; that’s the point of a break up. please know I don’t say that to put any blame on her- I wish she had been firm, for herself, but even more importantly and strongly, I wish I had just allowed the break up to happen. it was so deeply unfair of me to request support from her afterwards, because it completely ignored that the break up consisted of two people who needed to take care of themselves, separately. I prolonged the agony of the break up, and when she finally did put her foot down and fully ended things, it still hurt! it hurt even more! the post-break up, month-long fulfillment by her of my demands that she support me did not magically make the separation any easier! when what you really want is for somebody to just not be broken up with you, you will find anything else they try to offer to be insufficient.
Letter Writer, you deserve a post-break up time that gives you the space and energy to take care of yourself. please, no matter what your boyfriend may say, no matter how much he wants you to help him through this time, know that if you need things to end, completely 100% end, then you deserve to fulfill that need.
Me too. I didn’t have a boyfriend until my late 20s, and when my first-ever boyfriend dumped me I was a) already in the middle of a depressive episode; b) living 2000 miles away from my network of friends and family in a city where Boyfriend was my primary outlet for social outings and emotional support; c) didn’t know how to process breakup feelings AT ALL; and d) my feelings of insecurity around my late-bloomer-dom and fear that I would be alone forever were being ripped open both by being dumped and by my depression. I never went so far as threatening to kill or harm myself, but in my pain I said all sorts of things to him that were probably horrible to hear. And he was also not good at being a friend to a depressed person that he’d just dumped. I had the presence of mind to ask to not talk to him for awhile, because it was really hard for me to find a keep the friend line, which then got him pissed off at me, and I couldn’t bear to have him pissed off at me, so I started talking to him again and trying to be friends even though I wasn’t even remotely starting to be over him. It was a clusterfuck, and I was a giant flailing emotional mess.
I second danielle’s recommendation (with the caveat that OP knows their situation/person better than me): Don’t try to be their friend. Don’t be their emotional support person. Don’t be an outlet for all the messy feelings they’re going to be having all over the place. I needed to get emotional distance from my ex, and for me, the way to do that was to be mad at him, and I couldn’t be mad at him if he was being nice to me and pitying and trying to help. I don’t want to treat my ex unfairly, but that goes double for how I treat myself, and a fair assessment is that there are several important, deal-breaking ways in which he was a jerk to me (and I to him). I HAD to get distance before I could process that. I had to stop talking to him. I had to stop trying to be friends with him. It was such a relief when I finally admitted that to myself.
One of the things I am most grateful for about that breakup is that, immediately after my ex told me she was ending the relationship, she asked me whether I wanted her to leave (we were both at my house at the time). Honestly, I really, really didn’t want her to leave – but for some reason I said yes. She got out of there. I was able to hurt and cry and process my emotions for the rest of the day in peace. She didn’t contact me again for another three months, and I firmly believe that distance was truly invaluable for my healing process. Definitely seconding danielle & spandrella’s recommendations – distance is key here, I think.
I was dumped three weeks ago and I am slowly making my way through this process. Because of people like Captain Awkward, I have already been able to understand that someone breaking up with me because they don’t love me anymore may hurt like hell but also be RIGHT and BETTER than having someone pretend they love me just to keep the relationship going. I’m heartbroken but I’m healing. And stories like yours, about having someone who loves all the quirks that the previous partner didn’t, make me feel really hopeful. I’m glad you and your ex are both doing well.
This is so great! thank you!
“…waiting any longer would be doing a disservice to both him and you. In the long run, this is how you grow into yourself and become the person you’re supposed to be. And this is how you free him to do the same.”
This is amazing, and I’m so glad you got through and moved on and now have the clarity to write these beautiful truths.
I have a really stupid question that is likely a derail from this thread (probably is) and please delete it if this is not okay.
I think I have been this person. The boyfriend. Not quite as bad at the “you’re my sole source of happiness” jazz, and I have other friends, but I have been the breakupee who asked all those questions and who absolutely, 100% felt that the person didn’t care about me. I felt like he used me; it was only when I asked him to show up for me when I needed it, when I put out my needs, that he bailed.
This also came after a ton of mixed signals–almost a year of back and forth, dating and not dating, trying to be friends, fielding boundaries being crossed, (that, admittedly, I participated in and tolerated), being “too busy” to make plans while we were dating but then showing up at my house shitfaced (not too busy to bang!), and the person breaking up with me right after I called him saying, “I am at my worst. I need some emotional support right now,” after a big emotional trauma. Like, I mean, immediately–a week after the trauma. He came over, he was saying a bunch of bullshitty things, and I said, “It sounds like you want to break up but want me to say it.” And after some back and forth about this, I finally said it. And then comforted him while he cried on my couch for three hours. I had to ask him to leave my house. We tried to be friends, but he continuously made plans and blew me off, or would say we should do stuff and then not follow through, or say he was too busy to hang out but that he really wanted to (!) only to go on three or four day benders with his friends who he would constantly talk shit on me about). He’d text me to tell me about his day, but right after I told him how bad it got in the wake of the trauma (we pulled back on communication for about a month–I told him this maybe a month and a half later, when we were having a heart to heart), he stopped asking me how I was completely. He’d text me, tell me what he was up to, and then stop responding if I mentioned anything about me.
I feel extremely complicated. I agree that there is no good time to break up. I agree that my mental breakdown (which was compounded by the breakup, although our relationship was brief) was not his fault, and that it was largely about the trauma. At the same time, I feel like there are ways to handle this compassionately that aren’t…what happened? Am I totally crazy and wrong here? I’m having trouble holding all these thoughts in my own head and I don’t want to be unfair to him. Whenever I read these letters, I can’t help but think, Oh wow, look at you, you’re the person who is the nightmare breakupee who is being unfair to the person breaking up with them, especially since I definitely said, “What did I do wrong?” and definitely said, “When you do these things, I feel like you don’t care about me at all.” It makes me feel crazy, sometimes. Am I so, so wrong here?
It has been over six months and I am still not over it. He’s dating someone new–a friend of his that I was pretty sure he got involved with while we were seeing each other–and I am just devastated in the worst way. I am devastated. He’s an addict and she’s an addict too. I got sober after the trauma because I realized how destructive alcohol was for me, and it just feels like…why.
Please note: The OP is NOT similar to this person at all, and in no way am I making that comparison. OP, the Captain’s response is on point, completely. I’m sorry you have to be in this position. It’s a terrible thing–to not be in love with someone anymore and to have to tell them that.
Again, feel free to delete this comment. Sometimes I just don’t know what to think when reading these responses, because they apply to me but feel so situationally different, and when I try to remind myself of these mantras (sometimes people aren’t a good fit! there is no good time to break up! his feelings changed! that’s all okay!) in this context it makes me feel like I’m losing my mind.
Having sad feelings, being caught off-guard, asking exactly that list of questions when someone breaks up with you does NOT make you a bad person. It makes you normal. Being devastated by the end of a relationship doesn’t make you bad or weak. It sounds like your ex put you through a lot before you even got to that conversation. It also sounds like he was a coward who tried to avoid the difficult conversation as long as possible instead of just telling you how he felt. The purpose of today’s post and the others like this are that if someone needs to leave, they need to leave. Things will get better with some time. You won’t be with someone who doesn’t value you. It will get better. ❤
I’m so sorry for all your pain, BB. I hope what I have to say helps. My first serious boyfriend broke up with me 6 years ago this month after 4 years together. In the last 2-3 months that we were together an ex of his became newly single and they started hanging out a lot. They started dating within weeks of our breakup but I’m fairly sure the renewal of his relationship with her overlapped the tail end of his relationship with me. So that part of your story is familiar to me and it sure does suck! I have to tell you, I had just begun to get my appetite back about 6 months after he dumped me–and it took me the first 3 of those months to realize no contact was the quickest path to healing. It takes as long as it takes. It sounds like you’re taking care of yourself (congratulations on getting sober!), so keep following that impulse–do things for you, things that make you happy and are good for you, and try to be gentle on yourself. ❤
I don’t think you sound like LW’s boyfriend *at all.*
LW’s boyfriend is using his mental health issues to try to keep LW in the relationship, whereas it sounds some lot of your mental issues could be a result of the relationshop.
Far from being a nightmare breakupee, I think you’re a victim of emotional manipulation and gas lighting. After having your head messed with like ex- did, of course you’re going to ask “What did I do wrong?” but he’ll never answer because *you* didn’t do anything wrong. Meaning, you were spot on when you said. “When you do these things, I feel like you don’t care about me at all.”
You say “I don’t want to be unfair to him.” Why on earth not? He certainly wasn’t fair to you.
Please try to not worry about whether or not you’re being fair to him: be fair to the person who really matters in your life: YOU.
I’m sorry you’re suffering and hope you find some healing soon. I suspect you’ll find it easier now that you’re not being jerked around by someone who was using you.
Jedi hugs if you’d like them.
+1 on the advice to not respond to any of the negging statements he might make when you break up with him. They exist to create an opening for his case to try to get you to take him back. And once you’ve responded to them, it is really easy to fall into that trap and let him convince you to give it another chance.
That happened with the last guy I dated. He pulled the “you were too goid for me” schtick, and I got sucked in and explqined in detail why I was breaking up. And he made a really great, believable at the time case for how he could change. And I bought it. We were together another year, divided pretty evenly into a seasons in which his efforts stepped down from good to meh to poor to non-existent. A year I could have avoided if I had had the cwptain’s advice above!
Negging statements are a trap, in any context. Don’t step in them.
A good way for me to gain confidence before doing something difficult is to come up with badass phrases in my head that I never tell anyone. They often are kinda mean comebacks, that make for a cool fantasy that’s in no way practicle script in real life. But it helps me know I have a potential script for what Cersei might say in any situation.
“How can you do this to me right before my brother’s wedding?”
“Because I am a lion monster. Now here me roar”
“But you’re the only person in my life, what will I do now?”
“I don’t know, I don’t care, maybe start with therapy for untreated depression”
“Is there someone else?”
“Yes, me. I am prioritizing me”
“I knew it was too good to be true.”
“Maybe you’ll get better at noticing that a relationship is crumbling instead of living in a fantasy”
“I knew something like this would happen someday.”
“Yes this is a relationship, break up are bound to happen. It’s kinda a part of the girlfriend TM package”
“I knew someone like you couldn’t really love someone like me.”
“Yes and that’s why someone like me is leaving someone like you. Because we don’t work”
Without feeling like a horrible person?
By realizing that you’re doing him a kindness. Imagine that you stayed with him forever because you felt guilty and didn’t want to trigger his depression and didn’t want him to feel sad. Imagine for a second what HIS life would be like in x number of years. He’s living with someone who’s going through the motions, who’s never given him a chance to find out everything he’s capable of, who’s pretending every minute. How is that a good time for him? At that point, he’s stuck too but doesn’t how to get out of what’s a bad relationship all around. Think of breaking up with him as something you’re doing for HIS sake. It’s not good for him to be with someone who doesn’t love him. Ergo, you’re not a horrible person.
That is true. However, for what it’s worth LW, don’t actually SAY these things to him when you’re breaking up with him. Almost nobody wants to hear that they’re being hurt for their own good. Think these things to give yourself courage to go through with it, but let him realize it was for the best on his own, when he’s healing.
I came here just now to put the “don’t actually SAY these things” addendum to my own post and am glad to see you got here first. Yes to all of hugseverycat’s comment. Feeling that it’s a kindness helps you not feel like a horrible person (which was the original question). No good in communicating that logic to the person you’re breaking up with.
Yes to all of this, plus: yes, sometimes you will feel like a horrible person. You cannot shy away from that. Adults sometimes have to do things that might make them seem terrible to themselves or other people. This is what you need to deal with.. You can’t hide behind, “but I’ll feel baaaad!” Yep, you will, at times. Better to face it and get through.
Captain, you give the BEST answers I’ve ever read, well done 😃
LW, you CANNOT be someone’s everything. People who depend on you for the majority (or all) of their love, attention, affection, reassurance, etc. is not healthy for either of you. I had to learn this the hard way. I had a bf who had anxiety, panic attacks, depression….but during our relationship, the real issue was insecurity. And you cannot make someone else feel secure in the relationship. I went through 6 months before he confessed one night to going to through my phone, email, IM’s, etc. to find out if I was cheating on him. In that moment when he confessed, I knew it was over and broke it off. He wanted to get back together, but I knew that it would only be more of the same, and he would be more insecure, jealous and controlling as time went on. We kept on sporadic touch, but it was more about him occasionally trying to get back together with me, and he hadn’t changed. Unfortunately, he did end up taking his life a few years ago, and a few of his friends blame me. But I know that there’s nothing I could have done. You are not responsible for maintaining your bf’s mental health, and you can’t save him. You’re only prolonging the inevitable and making yourself miserable in the process. Break up with him and take care of YOU.
LW, you CANNOT be someone’s everything. That’s too much to ask of anyone. I went through this, and there will never be a good time. Just do it. My ex gave me a great opening when he admitted that he went through my phone, email, IM’s, etc. looking for evidence of my “cheating” (he was quite insecure, which was the real issue). Even when someone is telling you that you’re the only good thing in their life, that doesn’t make it your responsibility to maintain the status quo. Just break up with him and take care of you.
Almost twenty years ago, I had lost feelings for my then-boyfriend of a year. I thought it was the relationship deepening from passion into friendship. Nope. It was time to set him free. (I was all of 24 at the time and I had no idea what I was talking about when I tried to feed myself the “deepening into friendship” malarkey.)
From a Dear Prudence post – “ending this relationship will not worsen [/cause] his depression, because your romantic relationship is not a clinically effective treatment for depression.”
Q. Boyfriend blues: My boyfriend struggles with depression and has refused to get help throughout the entirety of our relationship (by his logic, he has “messed up his brain beyond repair” and won’t listen to any arguments that that is not how it works). Usually I am with it enough to be there for him during a depression spiral—at least as much as possible without being a mental health professional—but I am currently going through a lot of stress with moving and starting a new job, and it’s putting a lot of strain on our relationship. Beyond the fact that I’m not qualified to give him the help he needs, I am (kind of selfishly) feeling how one-sided our relationship is right now. Recently, in a moment of weakness, I told him that even if he didn’t get help for himself, then maybe he could get it for the people that he loves, and he responded that that isn’t enough of a motivator for him to try. I know that was his depression talking, but it hurt me deeply nonetheless. I don’t know where to draw the boundary lines between trying to be there for him and maintaining my own sanity.
A: I think “here and now” is a great place to draw a boundary. Being supportive of someone’s depression is not the same thing as being in a romantic relationship with them, and the only question you should be asking yourself about continuing to date this man is, “Am I happy in this relationship?” It sounds like the answer is “No, and I haven’t been for a while.” Ending this relationship will not worsen his depression, because your romantic relationship is not a clinically effective treatment for depression. You can care about someone and wish them the best while also acknowledging that you do not make for a happy, loving couple.
I’m so glad both that Emily Yoffe moved on and that Mallory Ortburg took over. Thanks for sharing, and I am going to repeat “your romantic relationship is not a clinically effective treatment for depression.”
I think that Mallory frequently misses the mark, FWIW, but she’s not wrong here.
This is not necessarily applicable to LW, but may be applicable to others who google upon the question in the future.
Captain Awkward says: a week he’ll go to the wedding and be around his family, where he can be petted and comforted by them
I just wanted to point out that we don’t know if he’ll be petted and comforted by his family. In some families, he may not. In some families, it might be better to show up with a date even if the relationship ends shortly afterwards. LW would know what applies to BF’s situation better than we do.
Yes! In my family, it would be a day/weekend of my mom crying uncontrollably and asking what I did wrong to make my partner dump me, and reminding me that I’ll never find someone and I will be alone forever and *aren’t I lonely*?!!! This doesn’t make it remotely my partner’s responsibility to stick around when their feelings have changed though – it’s 100% my mom’s responsibility to act appropriately.
If that is the case, Boyfriend knows what the likely behavior is and can invent a white lie. “LW wanted to come, but she broke her leg in a skiing accident” or whatever he wants to say to get them off his back. It’s not the LW’s obligation to cater to his family’s dysfunction (if said dysfunction exists)
Tina: this isn’t nice, but seriously, fuck your mom.
Seconded! You’d think the partner had dumped HER!
Thirded! The very last thing I would ever even consider possibly thinking about doing if a friend of mine got dumped would be anything Tina’s mom would say. The only way I would ever say anything like that to someone is if they had treated me absolutely terribly and I wanted them to be as miserable as possible.
Even if that’s the case here, the LW doesn’t want to be with their boyfriend any longer, so they should break up with him. They are not at fault if the boyfriend’s family is emotionally abusive or doesn’t know how to handle singlehood at weddings. It’s not their responsibility to shield the boyfriend from all the hurts in life, and especially not at the expense of their own happiness.
True. But even if his family is horrible, that’s not the LW’s issue. It shouldn’t be LW’s problem either
BUT that does not mean LW is obligated to be that date, provide a new date, OR CARE IN THE SLIGHTEST. 🙂
The great thing about breaking up is that, one second after you have said the words “This is not working; I am breaking up with you”, their problems are not your problems anymore!
Even if BF’s family does not “pet and comfort” him, it’s still not the LW’s duty to go to the wedding with him to perform the Happy Couple routine. Not her circus, not her monkeys.
The acute pain of a breakup feels terrible. It isn’t more terrible than the dull chronic pain of a relationship with somebody who’d rather not be in it.
You’re not a horrible person. Most relationships end. Good luck.
just remember that your health is just as important as his. Being in a relationship out of obligation is not healthy.
My high school boyfriend’s family loved me and invited me to many family events. At those events I always made sure to bow out of a few of the group photos. I knew that relationship wouldn’t last forever.
LW, you’ll be doing your bf’s family an actually impactful favor by not being at the wedding. Best of luck doing the deed; you got this.
I rather wish college- and post-college-me had known high-school-you, because high-school you displayed a wisdom it took me the better part of a decade after graduating high school to develop.
Dear LW, please accept this internet stranger’s permission to end a relationship that no longer makes you happy, and that hasn’t made you happy for a long time.
Your boyfriend doen’t need to be a bad person for you to break up with him. You don’t need to be a bad person to break up with someone. Breaking up is not a moral judgement. Wanting to break up is the only reason required to end a relationship and it doesn’t make you horrible, it just makes you a human who fell out of love.
As the Captain said, it’s probably not going to feel good (although you might feel relief and things other than sadness as well). But this is what you want to do, what you need to do for yourself and for your happiness. Which are every single bit as important as your boyfriend’s. You don’t have to wait six more months, nor a single more hour, nor for the wedding to happen.
“Romantic love is not the only important kind of love. We need lots of kinds of love and connection in order to be happy and healthy, and we need to value those connections at least as much as we value romance.”
SO true, and very well said. If you haven’t written a book yet, I urge you to do so!
Please follow the Captain’s advice and break up before the wedding.
Maybe his depression will flare up, maybe he will think you’re lousy. So what?
Over the course of his life his depression will probably flare up numerous times, regardless of your presence. Even if the two of you stayed together forever he’d still think you’re lousy some of the times your wishes took precedence over his, as they will.
Your presence fixes exactly one thing in his life: his desire for you to be in his life.
His desires are not more important than yours. In fact, his needs are not more important than yours.
If he needed a kidney, you wouldn’t have to donate one of yours. Indeed, you probably shouldn’t, as your kidney is probably not a match. And your life is not a match either.
Jedi hugs if you want them.
Sharing my experience from the other side of the coin in the hopes it will help with the “feeling like a horrible person” part. Some few years ago, my ex decided he wasn’t interested in our relationship any more. The way he handled it was like a masterclass in How Not To Do It.
First of all, he didn’t want to be the bad guy that did the dumping, so he spent about six months being as obnoxious as possible, up to and including telling me he wanted to sleep with other people, to try to manipulate me into dumping him. Then after he finally managed to dump me, he wanted to stay friends and make sure I was taking it ok. Except that I wasn’t taking it ok at all, and his presence didn’t help. He wanted me to find someone else so he didn’t have to worry about me any more, and I had no intention of getting into another relationship until I worked out what went so wrong in this one.
I think a lot of his decisions were motivated by not wanting to feel like a bad person, but the outcome was I ended up even more miserable than if he’d just ended it cleanly and left me alone. That’s probably the only kindness it’s possible to do someone when you break up. LW, it seems like you care about your boyfriend and want him to be ok. I really think, as someone who was in his shoes, that getting it over with as bluntly as possible gives the best chance of that. Good luck!
I was in exactly your position with my first serious boyfriend (I was 20 years old, and we had been together for 2.5 years), only I didn’t break up with him before his brother’s wedding. I wanted to, and I tried to work up the courage, but just couldn’t make myself do it. I kept trying to convince myself that I could wait a bit, and find “the right time”.
In the end, it was WAAAYY worse: after the service, I went outside to get some air and was sitting on a bench (being miserable but trying to look upbeat) when my boyfriend came to talk to me. He started questioning me and pushing to know why I wasn’t looking more happy (his overbearing-ness was a big part of my wanting to break it off), and finally I just snapped and couldn’t take it any longer… and broke up with him right then and there. Right before dinner. Right before his best man speech.
I still had to go and sit inside for the dinner, and raise a glass for toasts, and listen to the speeches – all the while having just dumped the best man. Then, he insisted on driving me home himself after the wedding, and tried to convince me that this was miserable and he didn’t know what he would do without me. I held firm, repeated that I was sorry but I wasn’t happy in the relationship anymore, and got out of the car.
It was awful and I felt awful, but I lived through it and he lived through it – and so can you. Sending you strength and positive vibes.
All of the Captain’s “some stuff” that he will likely say and the negative pity comments – – yes, those do happen. And not just from people with mental health struggles, but from men who are just pouty and upset that they’re being rejected. The script of, “I know this is hard to hear, but my feelings have simply changed” is spot on. Put it on repeat and resist that urge to clarify, defend, explain – and especially to give in and “give it one more chance”
Actually, for me, the negative pity comments and the “some stuff” my exes said was such a huge turn off. I cannot stand “poor little me-ness” in anyone so it actually reassured me all the more that I was making the right decision.
Confidential to the Captain: I also love your list things we need to teach young people about love. Lots of those things were concepts that took me a long time to get straight in my head. My boys are 3 and 4 now, but I’m going to print this post and use your list when it comes time to having the dating/relationship talk with my kids. Great list!
I agree with the Captain that going to the wedding is a Bad Idea. But, here’s one thing about group photographs that my wedding photographer did even before digital photography made it easy….anyone who was a boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance was subtly told where to stand and how to hold their hands, which was in such a way that they could easily be removed from the photo if necessary. My sister made my cousin’s shitty boyfriend pose with family (“let’s be inclusive”) and I mentioned it to my photographer, and the shitty boyfriend did not make it in to my album (except for the table shots). Luckily, my cousin came to her senses, and he became an ex-boyfriend decades ago.
I just got out of a long-term relationship that should have ended much earlier than it did, and the last number of months when his actions were saying he was done but he kept telling me he wasn’t were painful and confusing. I mention this because it took a lot of emotional energy for me to try to be okay in that situation, and once we actually broke up, I didn’t have to expend that energy in that direction anymore. No matter how much he may hurt over it, it isn’t doing him a kindness to stay in a relationship that isn’t working for you, and it is better for both of you that you exit this relationship you know you’re over so you can both move on.
I wish I had taken this advice when I was younger. I dated a guy who made me miserable but he was so good at making me feel guilty for wanting to break up because he “loved me so much” and I was his “reason for living”. He would use his family history and long standing abandonment issues to hammer that guilt in. I was battling my own newly diagnosed depression and anxiety issues but somehow he made all of my issues about him and the guilt grew. I ended up staying with him, miserable and depressed and worsening every day, until he cheated on me with my best friend. He even made me feel guilty about the fact that he “had to cheat on me” because I was so miserable all the time. I wish I’d had CA back then so I could have kicked him to the curb with confidence.
I was the person left behind many years ago, and a person with depression. She wanted us to “stay friends” but I knew that would delay my healing. With the help of friends and a wonderful therapist I got through the pain of learning that she had been seeing a new woman as she prepared to exit our relationship. I’ve been with the right person now for 20 years, so happy that I can be myself every minute. Let him go so you and he can both find happiness. Jedi hugs!
As someone on the OTHER side of this; it SUCKED when I was told they were worried about my depression so they stayed.
Yes, the breakup hurt. Yes it made my depression worse (for a couple weeks) but the low level depression I was feeling for a month up to the break-up vs. how long the other person wanted out? A month. Interesting how that matched up….
So I am very much never stay “for the other person”. I know there are instances where it makes sense. But more often it doesn’t.
This is an old 90s folk song, part spoken and part song. It covers both sides of a similar breakup, and I find it comforting. Hugs to everyone dealing with this!
I don’t have any great advice, but hope it’s okay if I just contribute my #1 breakup song that helped me a lot during those times.
Another long time reader, first time commenter here. I just want to say that this space is such a wonderful one and I am so grateful it exists!
Oh Captain, my Captain, your aim – as always – is true. Beautifully said.
LW, I’ve been a bit on both sides of this situation and like most things that are rooted in human emotion, there will be sadness and pain in some measure for both of you no matter when or how this plays out because you have shared parts of your lives with one another. But do not let the weight of the potential sadness or hurt or challenge deprive you of the potential for peace and relief and happiness in the absence of feeling like the one thing holding someone together. Wanting to be happy (without him) does not make you a bad person. Wanting a life different from the one you currently have with this person does not make you a bad person. Give yourself permission to go because that voice inside is telling you loud and clear that it is time to go. And the longer you wait, the harder it will be on both of you.
I don’t know if anyone has shared this – so forgive me if it is redundant – but reading your letter reminded me of an old “Dear Sugar” response that – like so much of her writing – has never left me.
While you may not precisely recognize yourself in these women (Sugar is responding to five letters with a similar theme), at the core of her response is this one true (if difficult) idea that “wanting to leave is enough.” She writes:
“Leaving a relationship because you want to doesn’t exempt you from your obligation to be a decent human being. You can leave and still be a compassionate friend to your partner. Leaving because you want to doesn’t mean you pack your bags the moment there’s strife or struggle or uncertainty. It means that if you yearn to be free of a particular relationship and you feel that yearning lodged within you more firmly than any of the other competing and contrary yearnings are lodged, your desire to leave is not only valid, but probably the right thing to do. Even if someone you love is hurt by that.”
So heed the Captain’s wonderful advice and listen to the words of all the wonderful people here and then take a moment to accept that even if it is the *hard* thing to do, leaving is still the *right* and *kind* thing to do. Sending you good thoughts and Jedi hugs and the bright hope of a peaceful tomorrow, whenever that may come. Good luck.
Definitely don’t go to the wedding. And break up now.
It’s hard to stay in love someone who is in a depressive cycle and relying too much on you (and only you). In my case, we stayed together for 10 years, but I should have ended it 4 (when things got really ugly) or even 6-7 years ago (when he started down the worst depressive spiral of his life but wouldn’t talk to me about it and got so angry when I tried to bring it up). He was drowning, and I kept clinging to him and the relationship thinking that I could help and that we could make it work. We did a lot of damage to each other instead, more than if I had let go much sooner to put on my own life vest. I did do that eventually. In the end, I chose to save myself, because the fundamental problems were not mine to fix, and even though I was being harmed, my suffering wasn’t enough motivation for him to deal with his problems (much less our problems). I broke under the strain of trying to carry the load for 2 people. It’s not sustainable or fair or kind to either person.
It’s now been one year since we officially broke up. It was the right choice for both of us, though I really made it for me. My ex is still struggling, but it is so much easier to offer support from a friend role than intimate partner role. Most of my resentment and frustration and anger and hurt is gone (and greatly reduced as soon as I moved out), but not the grief. We are by no means disentangled financially, legally, emotionally. But still in a much better space. And he is getting support from more people (who are not me).
His depression (current or future) is not your fault or your responsibility. It is his to manage. Do not try to carry his load.
I wonder if LW’s inner voice is screaming NOOOO because that voice suspects the boyfriend is thinking how romantic a public proposal at the wedding would be?
A) YEP AND B) NEVVVERRRRRRRRR!!!!!
This is a pet peeve of mine: DON’T PROPOSE AT OTHER PEOPLE’S WEDDINGS OMG
Like, here’s the thing: it’s fine to go off privately, flush with champagne and too few hors d’oeuvres and feeling pretty sexy in your pretty dress or suit, talk to your partner, and decide to get married while at someone else’s wedding.
It’s *not* fine to publicly propose or to announce your engagement at someone else’s wedding. This party is delightful, and it is also NOT your party.
I hate the entire concept of public proposals, which are at best merely ridiculous and immature, as opposed to manipulative and narcissistic.
But the idea of doing one at a wedding?! The head explodes.
Yeah, if you’d like to indulge in some satisfyingly righteous annoyance, there was a particularly egregious example that came up on Dear Prudence a few weeks ago — the third one in this chat — where the best man proposed to his girlfriend during the ceremony. Just unbelievable. I mean, I can understand proposing at the reception, quietly, after the toasting is all over and the first few dances have been danced and the evening is winding down — but during someone else’s actual ceremony? The mind boggles.
Meh? I proposed to my boyfriend in front of our performance group after one of our big shows. It was really exciting, and it let our friends be a part of that excitement.
I already knew his answer would be yes, because we had talked about marriage a year before. He had said that he already knew he wanted to marry me, I had said that I wasn’t sure, and his response was “OK, well, I’m sure if you decide you do want to get married, you’ll let me know.” We had also discussed how he felt about public proposals, and he said that he was fine with them. I agree with you that public proposals should NEVER EVER EVER be done in cases where you haven’t already confirmed with your partner that they a) want to marry you, and b) are OK with a public proposal. But if the people in your friend group and/or community have been a big part of your lives, and are going to continue to be a big part of your lives, then I don’t see the harm in including them in the proposal.
An acquaintance proposed to his now-fiancee at a friend’s wedding. And broadcast it via Facebook Live. Judging by the reactions in the video, I *think* he had cleared this with the couple whose wedding it was, but still, eesh.
I’m not sure whether this is better or worse than proposing to his first wife on the Tyra Banks Show, so, yeah.
PEOPLE DO THAT?!?!?!
I just… wow. I can’t even begin to even.
I think the grand prize winner of “making it all about you” was the guy who proposed to his girlfriend while she was receiving her Olympic medal.
These would make me say no and break up with the person on the spot, even if I had otherwise been intent to marry, because of what it says about the proposer’s ethical values not matching mine and their lack of empathy for me, specifically, as someone not okay with surprises or being the center of attention. Hopefully the also-very-public humiliation of the rejection would prevent future attempts.
Use your words, people; relate by clear, mutual consensus.
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek! NEVER EVER MAKE A PUBLIC PROPOSAL WITHOUT EXPLICITLY DISCUSSING BOTH YOUR INTENTION TO MARRY IMMINENTLY AND YOUR PARTNER’S COMFORT WITH PUBLIC SPECTACLE BEFOREHAND. EVER. EVER EVER EVER. It’s incredibly coercive – there is massive social pressure to acquiesce in that context – and even if the proposal is/would be welcome, lots of people hate being put on the spot in public. Surprises are generally a bad idea unless one has established both that the person likes this kind of surprise and that they like them in the context in question, and this can be one of the worst sort of surprises.
Add me to the chorus of “Don’t go to the wedding!”
My most recent ex dumped me about a year ago. A few weeks before than we flew from the west coast of the US to east coast for a wedding in his family. After the breakup I *deeply* resented the loss of the vacation days I used to go to the wedding. (Even more than the cost of the plane tickets and hotel room… I get a paycheck every 2 weeks, but vacation days only renew once a year.)
The sooner you end this relationship, the sooner you can spend your time and energy on you.
Yeah, weddings are like a crucible for relationship resentments, expectations, life crises, terrible drunken arguments etc. If the looming wedding date is making you feel uncomfortable, follow your intuition and break up now.
I have two dear friends who broke up recently, and one got triggered into a depression spiral (though it was really already beginning even before she got broken up with). This is a wise column, thank you.
LW, I feel this so hard. When I was a junior in college I ended my first real relationship of 3 years. He had been sick over the summer and was about to get a physical to see if he was better or worse…and I broke up with him the days before that. I had wanted to break up for over a year and kept chickening out/getting sucked back in by guilt every time I tried. When I ended things he threatened suicide, posted horrible things on Facebook about me and even had his mother call my mother to scream at her for breaking up with her son (I was 20 and he was 23…). I felt like the most horrible person in the universe for a good 6 months and it was when my until then untreated depression reached a head.
Thankfully, it’s been 8 years since this happened and both of us are happily married to other people who are much better fits for us. I’m sure he still thinks badly of me, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way, including contacting him sporadically to try to assuage my own guilt (DON’T do this…I regret this way more than the breakup because I kept poking at both of our open wounds and that was totally unfair of me). We talked once almost a year after and had a tiny bit of closure, and haven’t spoken since.
I would 100% agree to break up ASAP, definitely before the wedding if you can. He will guilt you, you will feel horrible, but in the long run its sooooo much better than a prolonged, painful charade. Have your own Team Me ready to be there for you, talk through the guilt and stages of grief you may fee, to support you and remind you why this the best choice. Best wishes to you!
Time heals all the wounds x
My mother was big on the guilt-tripping and sympathy ploys (undiagnosed possible NPD, and I think bipolar). So now, I am very unsympathetic towards any type of poor-me statements or man-flu behaviour. I keep in mind, though, that it might not be deliberate and could be just his sneaky brain weasels. I say my hard-nosed things *in my head* and leave a silent moment or 10 before I say anything out loud.
These silent things: “huh. Drama-Llama” or “sniff sniff. Do I smell burning martyr?” (credit for that one to my best friend) or “huh. Eating crackers again” (thanks CA).
And you know what? Sometimes it has helped *me* to be more sympathetic in the times where the need is genuine. But YMMV, I have to work hard at not being a snotty cow.
tl;dr Just have a mental mantra to stop yourself from your own kneejerk response to sympathy ploys, whatever it may be.
I like “This shit is not my shit.”
There is one thing I would like to add to this. It may not be the case for LW but it is often the case when your partner is dependent on you and has few friends and also wants to spend more time together they are waving a little red flag of attempted isolation without you realizing it. I would like the young ones to learn how to recognize when someone is trying to isolate them. Too often they do not find out what happened to them until they are hurting and have no one left in their life they are close to except the isolater, isolationist? wev.
at least twice i have had people postpone breaking up with me because i was going through something difficult and (i assume) they thought that waiting would be a kind thing to do. both times i have wished with all my heart that if they were going, they would have just gone–that sort of thing isn’t as easy to hide as we think it is and i felt like something was going wrong but i didn’t have the energy to bring it up because of the other difficult items. the constant telling you how much he loves you sounds like constant pleas for reassurance so he might have some inkling that all is not well even if you are doing your very best to hide it. staying when you’re gone emotionally isn’t really a kindness–as the captain says, there will always be a reason why this is a bad time to leave.
Oh LW, being the dumper is very hard, and you don’t get a lot of cultural sympathy. But you are allowed to do it. It doesn’t make you a bad person, at all. Quite the opposite. It’s brave.
I’m not big on regret, but I do wish I could go back in time and gently tell myself a year into my first serious relationship that it was ok to end it. Instead we limped along for more than 4 years, and got into a huge nasty fight after every wedding we went to. (Also, at his brother’s wedding, I was hurt when they took family photos without me (some with, some without) but honestly, good for them. I guess they saw the writing on the wall and saved themselves from a lifetime of “who is that…. oh yeah… she was a real b when she broke X’s heart.”)
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