#1088: “Trying to get my partner to be more ambitious and to move out of his family’s house with me.”

Dear Captain,

I have been in a serious committed relationship for six years. We met in law school, moved across the country together, and have been living at my boyfriend’s (“partner”) parent’s house for almost four years. Yup! You read that right! We are both attorneys and we still live with parents.

I have been trying to convince partner to move out with me for most of those four years; obviously without success. He finally agreed to buy a house with me and we have a realtor and finance person. Except we really haven’t made any headway on moving out. Saving money has been slow going because we both work long hours which makes cooking meals at home difficult -and our kitchen is less than ideal. Regardless, when meals are made it’s usually (read: ALWAYS) at the expense of my mental and physical labor- not his. I have tried to get him to contribute more in this regard but to no avail.

If you haven’t already surmised by now, I am a classic co-dependent! I will mother you like no other mother! Except that means I don’t take care of #1 and probably explains why I’m even in this predicament!

Starting a career in law is very difficult and I live in an area with an impacted market. Nevertheless, I somehow convinced a well-regarded law firm to hire me and have been working there for around 10 months. I have started to become heavily recruited by other firms and my career has gone from 0-100 in one week.

Compare that to partner’s career trajectory: never seems to find the right “fit” in a job; liked his first legal job but had some performance issues and became ultimately unhappy; was let go from his last job; and hates his current job and is currently looking for a new job. All of his job woes make me scared for our future because I desperately need stability. Even though he’s a lawyer and so presumably he has the tools to be successful, I’m afraid that he will continue this trend of failing to work hard to achieve goals- even in positions that he doesn’t love.

Last night I was trying to fall asleep in my partner’s childhood bedroom with all of our adult belongings closing in on us and our large, living-room sized TV lighting up the room while partner watched something about video games even though it was late and even though he had to wake up early. My heart was racing with so much anger for him and myself. I want a partner that challenges me and can keep up with my career ambitions.

So my question is: Do I let this ride out and continue to be the supportive girlfriend that helps her partner out of continuous ruts? Is this what love is and have I missed the memo that being in a committed relationship entails dragging your partner along kicking and screaming when you’re traveling a lot faster than he is and you want to help him keep up?

Sincerely,

Not Your Mother

Dear Not Your Mother,

What if I told you that your boyfriend will likely remain pretty much exactly as he is now (career-wise and personal happiness-wise and inclination to prepare meals-wise?) for the forseeable future? What if I told you that he might actually allow you to eventually drag him kicking and screaming out of his parents’ house but that you will have to do 100% of the work of finding a place and moving?

Applying the Sheelzebub Principle: How many more years do you want your relationship to be exactly like this? 1 more? 5 more? 10? Forever?

It’s okay to live with family to save up money or because you like it. It’s okay to not be very career-oriented. These things don’t make him a bad person, but you say “I want a partner that challenges me and can keep up with my career ambitions.” It’s okay to really like someone but also decide they aren’t the right fit for you long-term. You have a lot of evidence that you and he want different things from life. An opportunity to get the kind of life you want has arrived, now, calling your name and holding the door open for you. What are you going to do?

You wrote to me (the Marie Kondo of breakups) so I know that you know what to do, but I’ll remind you anyhow:

  1. Keep kicking ass in your career and follow your star wherever it leads.
  2. Do some thinking about where you want to be geographically. Is this the right city for you, long-term, if your partner were not a factor?
  3. Separate your finances from his. Figure out how much house/apartment you (alone) can afford either as a renter or to buy.
  4. Move to your own place and set up your household exactly as you like it. Make the meals you want for yourself when you feel like it. Watch only what you like on the TV. Stop waiting for him. 
  5. Do not let his name be on the lease/mortgage or any documents, and if you decide to keep dating for a while after you move, do not allow him to move in with you.
  6. Somewhere in there, end things with him. He’ll be comfortable and happy living with his parents and he’ll figure out his career stuff (or not) in his own time. You’ll miss him for a little while but a) I promise you it will pass and b) if you want to find him, you know right where he’ll be.

You can’t change him. It’s okay to outshine him. Stop waiting for him. Go get your life.

Update (3/14): I don’t know what’s going on, but comments have gotten very contentious today, so I’m shutting ’em down. Letter Writer, it’s okay to leave this guy. Wish you well!

212 comments
  1. The only thing I would add to this excellent advice is: maybe rethink making “co-dependent” part of your identity. That’s the kind of thing that can easily be a self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s a world of difference between “I’ve fallen into co-dependence in the past” and “I am a co-dependent person.”

    • David said:

      “There’s a world of difference between ‘I’ve fallen into co-dependence in the past’ and ‘I am a co-dependent person.'”

      Yes! So much this.

      signed,
      Working On This Myself

    • Little Mousling,

      I’m giving you a whole armful of <3's and likes because your comment is gold. ^_^

    • I have to wonder whether is this actually co-dependency, or whether it’s just the old trap, into which women are especially prone to falling, where you feel like you have to do everything in a relationship. I’m not saying it’s one way or another; I don’t know LW’s life. But I do get the sense that this is a question worth asking. In any case, I agree that “co-dependent” amounts to negative self-labeling here.

      • Yeah, and I feel like enjoying performing acts of service for your romantic partners is not necessarily indicative of being codependent anyway.

        • Nine times ten said:

          Yes. And I see a lot of healthy perspective in the letter, too — the LW _doesn’t like_ the current status quo, _doesn’t like_ that she’s in this mothering/caretaking role. If the LW were saying “but I can’t leave, he neeeeeeds me” then I would be more concerned about codependency. Things may have been like that earlier, I don’t know, but that is obvs not how the LW feels now.

        • Yeah, trying to help your partner when they’re in a hard patch is being a good partner, not being co-dependent. Co-dependent has become this weird catch-all term.

          My understanding of what co-dependent really means is that you try to solve problems that aren’t yours, both repeatedly and in a boundary-stomping manner by trying to make decisions that don’t belong to you. If one is rhetorically using that definition for the moment, it does sound like LW is being co-dependent, because LW is trying to decide the right way to live for someone else — it sounds like LW’s partner and LW’s partner’s parents are all happy with LW’s partner living as a perpetual child in the parents’ home. I don’t think that’s a good choice for any of them, but they do have the right to make that choice.

          • Saint Clair said:

            Female socialization is the greatest culprit IMO. Has anyone seen the Emotional Labour Meta Thread ?

            Try to imagine this relationship with the sexes reversed.

            Women do a disproportionate amount of emotional caretaking, as well as cooking, childcare and housework, even women who work the same amount as their male partners, in a job outside the home. This is the result of social and cultural influences, not DNA. Women are put in a no win situation as they are scolded for being too controlling or without boundaries. Or a woman’s boundaries are described as selfish.

            Most people understand what is being decribed by the term “man baby” but when was the last time you heard about a “woman baby” ?

            Women are expected to be the caretakers for the relationship. If you do too much, or do it in the wrong way, or for the wrong person then you are labelled co-dependent ! Why isn’t LW’s partner labeled as dependent then ? Why isn’t his dependency on his parents and female partner, and lack of initiative despite his education labeled as the real issue, instead of her response ?

          • Is anyone here not labeling LW’s partner’s behavior as extremely dependent? There seems to be a pretty solid consensus that dependent is exactly what his behavior is. Yeah, he’s a giant manbaby all right.

            But it doesn’t make sense to give advice on how he can grow the fuck up on a thread that is for giving advice to LW. LW has no say in whether he wants to grow the fuck up. And his behavior looks like he’s pretty adamantly clear he doesn’t wanna. So what other advice is there to give LW beyond, “He clearly doesn’t want what you want; move on without him”?

    • Saira Ali said:

      Yes yes yes. The corollary in my life is “There is a world of difference between ‘I’ve made some mistakes with serious consequences in the past’ and ‘I am a fuckup'” and it’s so good to sometimes hear a reminder from people who aren’t my husband or shrink!

  2. Is this what love is and have I missed the memo that being in a committed relationship entails dragging your partner along kicking and screaming when you’re traveling a lot faster than he is and you want to help him keep up?

    No, it’s not what love is, you’ve missed no memos.

    • In fact, that is fundamentally abusive.

      The dude has the right to decide not to adult, and he is exercising that right happily. His parents are apparently pleased to indulge that and keep him as a permanent child, which they also get to decide. LW does not get to make those choices for them. Trying to co-opt other people’s choices is exactly what “violating boundaries” means and is a form of abuse.

      Grey’s Anatomy covered that pretty well in an early season when Yang’s romantic partner was “dragging her along kicking and screaming when he was traveling a lot faster than she was on HIS chosen ramp of relationship progression, and he wanted to help her keep up”. The abuse just kept getting uglier and uglier, until Yang literally was reduced to pleading with her friends to witness and hear her when she said her entire identity was being erased, and the person she was, obliterated.

      None of that is love. It is domestic abuse.

      Don’t go there.

      • Calling the OP abusive based on the actual contents of this letter seems hyperbolic IMO.

        • Good thing I didn’t, then. I did say that LW’s idea of, “dragging your partner along kicking and screaming when you’re traveling a lot faster than he is and you want to help him keep up?”, would be fundamentally abusive and LW shouldn’t try it.

      • It’s not, though. It’s boyfriend saying one thing and doing another, and not taking any responsibility for cooking or engaging with the plans he supposedly shares with OP. And not, it seems, respecting OP’s needs: he doesn’t cook which makes it hard to save despite him agreeing to support her goal of buying a house. He is watching TV in their shared bedroom when he has to get up early–and presumably so does she. There’s no boundary setting by OP’s boyfriend or his parents that we hear about here, other than boyfriend’s refusal to do his share of cooking. Which isn’t a particularly reasonable boundary, so much as it is a refusal to participate in the basics of an adult relationship (not specifically re: cooking–re: sharing the load in an equitable manner).

      • Yolanda B. Cool said:

        I think perhaps you are reacting to something besides LW’s letter.

        Wanting a partner who is capable of adulting for themselves is not abuse.

        • TO_Ont said:

          I read the original comment as saying the BF was abusive. Which I agree is very hyperbolic, based on the information given.

          There are loads of terrible relationships that aren’t abusive. You don’t have to prove a relationship is abusive to be ‘allowed’ to leave it.

          • TO_Ont said:

            Oops, that was another comment. This one was saying the LW is abusive.

            In any case, I do not see anywhere near enough information to say that _either_ of them is abusive. Maybe one of them is, but we have no reason to say so based on the information we have.

      • “dragging your partner along kicking and screaming” down what you have decided is the right road is fundamentally abusive, with the obvious caveats for calling the authorities if they’re in danger and so on.

        LW and LW’s partner have fundamentally different ideas of how they want to live. I’m in complete agreement with LW that LW’s version is infinitely better and would be better for LW’s partner, but that still does not give anyone the right to try to coerce LW’s partner into living in a way LW’s partner does not want to live.

        • S said:

          I think people are seeing the word abusive and getting very defensive here, but I think your point is very good.

          Ultimately the LW’s instincts are spot on, it is WRONG to force your partner to live a life they don’t want. It’s wrong to force them to make changes when they would prefer not to. She should not do that!

          Not only is it not her job to “motivate” him, it’s not necessarily something he needs. He’s allowed to be content in this situation. (And she’s allowed to be extremely unhappy.) If they can’t find a compromise point where each of them are happy then it is time for her to move on, not drag him into a situation that he isn’t interested in working towards.

          • aebhel said:

            Agreed. I don’t think LW has done anything abusive, but this just seems like a fundamental incompatibility. If he’s happy how things are, it’s not her job to drag him along to where she wants him. If he’s not happy… it’s still not her job.

        • Guava said:

          I don’t think it’s helpful to introduce the idea that the LW’s behavior *may* cross the line into being abusive here if she keeps on the path she’s on right now. Yes, her boyfriend has the right to live his life with the degree of ambition (or not) that he chooses. LW also has the right to take a moment to pause and ask herself whether that’s what she wants. Right now she’s asking if she’s allowed to even feel dissatisfied, and it sounds like she’s carrying a lot of guilt about that. Introducing a “don’t be abusive!” message is only going to add a heaping pile of shame on top of that guilt.

      • Temperance said:

        I really do not think that it is “fundamentally abusive” to expect your partner to do adult things and be an adult. FWIW, I think it’s abusive to lie about your intention of adulting, and to keep your partner in a holding pattern because you’re totally going to grow up, sort of, sometime in the future.

    • Lizards80 said:

      Omg no this is not love…and if THIS is what love was, I would happily spend my life having no part of it!

    • Green Door said:

      It’s easy for us to fall for the “rules” of dating, like
      “all relationships take work,” “everyone has their flaws,” “all couples argue/get on each other’s nerves at times” And, to a point, yes, these are all true. I always thought so and that’s why i put up with so much shit from my partners. Until I dated my now husband who would offer to cook dinner just as much as I did, and came up with creative date ideas as often as I did, and jumped in to help clean up the messes we made without me having to ask…and whose career and family and “where do you want to be 10 years from now” goals all mirrored my own. So no, LW, you did not miss a memo. If one partner has to drag the other kicking and screaming, then you’re not playing by the same relationship rules and that’s just a recipe for misery. I love the Captain’s adivce – go find your life!

      • Redgirl said:

        “Relationships take work” was the line my ex used to keep me in a miserable relationship much longer than I should have. Putting effort into your relationship is not the same thing as staying in a situation that drains far more out of you than it gives you in return.

  3. LW you guys dont want the same things in life so that makes you incompatible. You are also incompatible because you are the mommy in the relationship (despite him already having a mommy, that he lives with!!!! That’s two mommies under the same roof!!). You pour all your emotional and physical energy and he just shrugs and says meh.

    I would break up with him. I would also use all this free time I have to figure out what I want in life. What is my best career path? Can I not cook for myself for a week? Can I afford someone took cook for me with my lawyer money? Can that person look like Dwayne Johnson (also can he bring his puppies)? Does my job offer me a comprehensive health care plan that covers therapy so I can work on my co-dependent issues so I would be able to make healthy and smart decisions in the future about relationships? Can I not watch American dad ever again because if I see one more time the “lazy husband hot wife” troope one more time I might go berserk? Do I want to flirt with that cute guy sitting at the end of the bar?

    So many questions, so much free time to think about them. So much free time to live life unburdened.

    • Proffie Galore said:

      “Can I afford someone to cook for me with my lawyer money? Can that person look like Dwayne Johnson (also can he bring his puppies)?”

      My former office mate used to say this:

      It is essential to find a man who can cook.
      It is essential to find a man who has money.
      It is essential to find a man who’s fun in bed.
      It is essential that these men never meet.

      • Proffie Galore said:

        My own list would have (instead of money): It is important to find a man who can write. Looking like Dwayne Johnson? um yeah.

        YMMV, and also gender.

      • Jules the Third (I think) said:

        Your former office mate is sexist, no matter the gender they put in, and that’s not actually funny. It keeps the sexism alive and moving.

        • Muddie Mae Suggins said:

          How so? It seems like a joke about not getting all the things you want in one partner. I fail to see the sexism in that.

          • Nanani said:

            “It is essential to find a man” is pretty sexist no matter what comes after the “who can”
            It’s a joke that rests on the premise that women need men, and do not have money of our own.
            Nah.

        • Can you explain how it’s sexist. People seem quick to jump to -ism in this thread and I just don’t see how in this case.

          • I’m guessing that the people perceiving sexism are referring to the (sexist) idea that women need men.

            The people who think that this is a (mildly) funny joke think that the sexist idea is up ended.

          • sistercoyote said:

            This is one of those times when upending a saying doesn’t get rid of the inherent ickiness. Because originally, the saying was to get a woman to do all of those things.

            You (the generic you) might not find one partner who can do all those things for you. But if you are in a multiple partner situation, I really hope it’s polyam, and everybody is consenting, and not a cheating situation as implied by the last line.

          • thathat said:

            I mean, I wouldn’t call it sexist, but it does seem to be a joke about cheating. Not just polyamory (which, hey, whatever you’ve negotiated with consenting partners is aces), but secretive cheating.

        • Fwiw, when I first heard the joke (maybe 40 years ago?), I heard it as upending the trope that all women were looking for a man (to marry monogamously, and deny sex to, because women are all straight, monogamous, and frigid).

          Because it points out that women have multiple needs.

          But I do get why it is problematic.

          • Yeah I can see how its problematic, but I also read it similarly to how you described, but more of an exuberant divorced bird lady who goes around everywhere with men throwing themselves at her feet while she says “sorry darlings I just dont see you this way, I’m off to Milan”.

  4. Msconduct said:

    Great advice. LW, as you feel you have co-dependency issues, and if you think this is getting in the way of taking the actions the Captain recommends, I’d recommend seeing a therapist to help you address those. I know time and money for this for a starting-out lawyer might be a stretch, but if you can manage it it would be a worthwhile investment in your future happiness.

    • Just J said:

      +1.

      I am in disagreement with Saint Clair below. While the term co-dependency may be thrown around a lot, we here at CA are not to diagnose you. If you feel that you are being co-dependant, then that indicates that you are Self Aware of an issue and it may be worth talking to a therapist.

      I say this WHOLEHEARTEDLY as I tend to be co-dependent and finally went to a therapist to get help sorting out a relationship situation Very Similar to LW’s. I am very much an A-type personality, highly successful in my field, and I thought being super-woman and doing it all was just what you did. Yet, I was so, so frustrated with what should have been (and now is) a very solid and wonderful romantic partnership.

      The therapist immediately pointed out that I have no ability to set boundaries when it comes to romantic partners and I am horrible at self care. I was sacrificing myself completely to take care of someone else (who didn’t need taking care of) and bend myself into a twisty pretzel just because I “assumed” that’s what you did, and thus took it upon myself to do so!!

      So, I agree, go talk to a therapist. Mine was very much able to give me tools to set boundaries, learn my limitations, learn how to take care of myself (which included learning how to farm-out some household chores and other things that I do not have time to handle), how to talk to my spouse, how to cultivate a healthy relationship (primary with myself – yep, lots of baggage here – but also with my work and with my husband too). As a result, I am more centered, more aware, much more successful as boundaries and life in general, and as a result of my actions (key point: my actions), my relationship with my husband has improved vastly as well.

      LW your story resonates with me. I highly suggest a therapist!

      • Just J said:

        PS, I am not saying, LW, your relationship may improve as an outcome of therapy. It may or may not. It’s just that you may be realizing you have your own “stuff” to sort out internally. Which will help you figure out if your relationship is worth it to you or not.

      • Saint Clair said:

        Mistakenly describing oneself as co-dependent is not an incantation like Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice !

        Most people are not given the tools (or words) to adequately describe the dynamics of their relationship. Pop-psychology buzzwords like co-dependent and enabler are stuck on everyone, for anything, and have become meaningless. They are not a clinical diagnosis, personality disorder or DSM classification.

        All relationships are INTERDEPENDENT in some way. Like your pet gives you affection and attention but also has come to expect things like food and shelter from their person. This is not inherently exploitative or dysfunctional. People in relationships bring different things to the table. Dysfunction happens when there is an imbalance and misuse of things like power, finances and labour, or philosophical differences. Two people can like and love each other, but if one wants a life with many children and financial stability, and the other wants a life of hitchhiking and chance substinance there is no middle ground that can make this work for both people.

        It’s okay to like/love a person and recognize that there are deep incompatibilities that cannot be resolved or therapied out. Incompatability does not equal pathology or even dysfunction.

        LW’s boyfriend may live the rest of his life with his parents, with a very so-so legal career, and this may be just fine for him, the perfect life, and the best he can do.

        The problem is that the LW is NOT fine with this, and despite her efforts to make an adult life together with him, they are still living together at his parents house. She has a great job, but he keeps her up late on a work night when she is trying to sleep, watching t.v. about video games (sigh). (Why wouldn’t he go in the other room and watch this on his parent’s t.v. in the den or living room ? ie basic respect and consideration from one adult to another). She has been in hot pursuit of a career and adult life, and while he has been playing along with this, he has not made any real efforts to accomplish this.

        It is so disappointing to be let down by a person who you thought was loving and supportive, who acted like you were on the same page.

        It’s been long enough, and there have been no changes. Her reaction to this is NOT the problem.

  5. Saint Clair said:

    What the Captain said.

    And this: dump that Co-dependent nonsense. It is a pop psychology term which now one-size-fits-all-any dysfunctional relationship. If you were a non-drinking partner in a relationship with an alcoholic or addict you might be co-dependent. Or not. One of the most famous books on Codependency is written by a woman who is not a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker, but is a recovering alcoholic. She describes the suffering female partners of male alcoholics with great contempt, and blames them for their partner’s dysfunctional and addictive behaviours. You are NOT this ! This concept fits your current situation as well as one size fits all pantyhouse fit me (hint: they don’t, as a slightly plus size woman with longer than average legs. Even as a skinny person they never fit).

    It does sound like you are in a relationship with a man you have outgrown, though.

    It sounds like your career is taking off, and that you will have many opportunities to succeed – and this is exactly what you want and need, and have been working towards !

    Your boyfriend sounds like he could live with his parents forever, and stay exactly where he’s at. I don’t think you want or need these lead boots.

    You’ll be okay on your own. Rock that law profession, buy your own house, and keep moving forward. Without this boyfriend, you will have some opportunities to meet a future partner who does share your goals, and is willing to participate at a basic level in adulthood coupledom, like meal preparation, sometimes.

    It’s sad to break up but it is much sadder to stay stuck.

    • L said:

      OH MY GOD THIS.

      After breaking up with my ex, his friend’s wife told me I was codependent and autistic (!). (Spoiler: I’m neither.) I WAS, however, trying to drag along someone I’d outgrown. Don’t try to fit into those pants.

  6. Bobbin Ufgood said:

    Oh, help! how many of my insanely amazing friends have done this — killed themselves trying to drag along someone who doesn’t want to go. It’s okay to break up! this does not make you a bad person! two good people can have a bad fit and that’s okay!

    Honestly, to me (another go-getter) this sounds absolutely miserable and *I* think you are right and normal to want something else

    • OMJ said:

      I’m reminded of my sister, who spent about 10 years filling out all of her husband’s job and grad school applications, writing his essays, arranging their finances, making moving/planning arrangements, etc….until finally they both completely melted down and realized that nothing about the situation worked. She now has her own dream job while he’s a full-time stay-at-home dad and as far as I can tell that’s working for them. But WOW, it was painful going there for a while as they both tried to mold themselves into something they were just never going to be.

    • sofar said:

      I’ve dated this guy. Too many of my friends have as well. It boggles my mind, how it even happens.

      What got me out (and a friend who was in the same situation) was giving the guy a choice. I wasn’t strong enough to just walk away (and tend to have a guilt complex), but it seemed more manageable to give the guy a choice to follow me or stay behind.

      In other words, LW might say: “As we’ve discussed, I want to move out of your parents’ house. I am going to start looking at places to purchase on X date. If that sounds good to you and you want in, let me know when you want to sit down before X date and talk about joint finances/our purchasing power, as well as what we want in a house. Then, please contact the realtor and set up appointments to see properties by X date. If you’re more comfortable at your parents’ house and aren’t ready, I totally get that! And I’ll move forward on my own on X date and will plan on living alone.”

      I 100% guarantee this guy will opt to NOT take any initiative and LW will have her answer — and can then hunt for a place without guilt, knowing she gave him every chance to move with her.

      • aebhel said:

        I like this (assuming she still WANTS him to move with her, that is). Give him the opportunity to participate, sure, but don’t drag him along.

  7. Meggi said:

    Welp… that was me a year and a half ago.
    With the guy for 8 years and living in his Dad’s place. Would not move. Actually found out he was purposely sabotaging his own finances so he COULDN’T move out.
    The straw that broke it was when he bitched at me for not paying attention to him at an industry event where I was GIVING A TALK.

    It took about a year after that, but I did it and my life is so much better now. (Actually lost 10lbs that summer because I wasn’t so stressed anymore)

    • Good for you, Meggi!

  8. Ambs said:

    This guy sounds like my ex! Let me add a guess here: None of his job woes are *his* fault? It’s the manager, the colleagues, the company, the field of law … but never him, his choices, or his attitude?

    You sound like a catch. If you follow the Captain’s advice, I bet you find yourself a partner who is a self-starter with his own career and doesn’t mind dealing with dinner and chores like a grown-up. I’m a lady with a kick-ass career myself, and after I rid myself of the overgrown toddler, I dated and married a man who has an actual work ethic AND who cooks and cleans and stuff. They aren’t unicorns; there are real guys out there like that, so please don’t waste any more of your years on this one.

    • Nine times ten said:

      I do foresee that the LW could easily find a great partner, if that’s what she wants. But given that she’s (probably, hopefully) ending what sounds like it was a pretty serious relationship, and given that she seems to be concerned about co-dependent tendencies, I’m curious about what would happen if she took some time to be single, to work on herself, to maybe look into seeing a therapist to help her figure out what she wants her life to look like now that she’s (hopefully) no longer structuring everything around the needs of this partner. What hobbies might she get into, what friends might she make, what might she discover about herself, if she’s not focused on finding a new partner? LW, you seem smart and focused and like you have a lot to gain by getting to know yourself a bit better. Best of luck.

  9. VioletEMT said:

    LOL at “the Marie Kondo of breakups,” but it’s true. He is not bringing you joy. He will not likely change.

    It sounds like you’re a badass person with the potential to make a badass life for herself. You deserve someone who will keep up with you. I’m not saying this guy is a bad person, but he isn’t what you need. His happiness and yours are not on the same path. Go follow your own path, and make yourself a good life and career.

  10. echidna said:

    Like others, I’m a bit leery of the codependent label. You’ve been with this guy since you were a student – you haven’t really given yourself a chance to live independently. You might like to give yourself some time to establish yourself and your career, without entanglements.

  11. S said:

    You say in your letter you need stability, and it seems like you are wanting that to come from outside you. From a partner who is stable, or a home that you buy and that is yours. But it sounds to me like YOU are already doing a great job of providing stability. You are getting things done for your family unit and making advanced plans. You aren’t going to lose any of that by moving out on your own. In fact, you’re going to gain stability because you wont have someone else constantly throwing you off balance.

    (Also as a person who has been stuck in her purchased home for 10 years now. NOOOOOO don’t buy a place! I bought my first home in a “we need to move NOW” type of situation, and I regret it, a lot.

    Financially you spend the first years mostly paying off interest, you’re essentially renting from the bank anyway. So if you go to sell within the first few years you have to have serious property value increases to really make or maintain your own investment. Plus there are constant unexpected costs that a landlord would usually cover but now you have to manage on your own. (This fall my bathroom sink and my air conditioner broke at the same time I was going through a major health crisis. I may be slightly scarred.)

    You have plenty of time to find a good opportunity to buy but you also know what your options are so you may have reasons that buying is better than renting. But don’t let a romanticized notion of home ownership trap you because you like the idea of stability. It is stable, but it’s a better choice for when you are also stable.)

    • TootsNYC said:

      especially don’t buy now, when you are so incredibly busy getting started as an overworked lawyer.

      Rent, so you don’t have to spend any “executive function” on dealing with the stuff like repairs, etc.

      Renting can be a perfectly stable way to live, actually. The stability comes from paying your rent. And you can move, which is actually ALSO stable! because the stability comes from “you being able to move when you want.”

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        Rent or buy *does* depend a lot on the local rental market, though. Here in the UK it’s perfectly possible to pay more in rent than you would on a comparable mortgage; so if you can _afford_ a mortgage, it can be worthwhile buying instead of renting. Also, much housing stock is in abysmal state and landlords don’t fix things – I’ve known more than one person, myself included, who have lived with, e.g. roof leaks for months.

        I’d recommend not buying a place until the LW has worked out what they want to do, and where they want to live: without college boyfriend’s parents, is this still their dream city?

        • MsSolo said:

          As a recent homeowner, I very much miss not being able to call a landlord to deal with stuff (like “why is our toilet making that noise?”) but our mortgage on a 3 bed house is 2/3 what we were paying in rent for a 2 bed flat where the doubleglazing filled up with water every time it rained, and this is one of the cheapest parts of the country for either (only 1/3 of my wage goes on housing! Usually a smaller proportion, but we’re single income while DH wraps up his phd). All that taken into account, though, I’d still recommend LW starts with at least a short term lease somewhere, just to get out and breathe for a bit. Buying a house takes a huge amount of energy, and LW doesn’t want to be living in her ex’as parents pace / dragging out a relationship she wants to end to avoid the former while dealing with everything else.

        • S said:

          That is a good point. Depending on where you live in renters also have very different rights. Where I live renters have a lot of rights and there are organizations to support them and I forget that not everyone can call up those groups when their landlord stops heating the building.

          But if that’s not the case for the LW I could for sure see moving up a home buying timeline. I think your last point is important though, she should give herself a little freedom to build her life!

        • aebhel said:

          Yeah, that’s very context-dependent. I bought my house at 23 (and in a shitty minimum wage job, married to a person who was making slightly more than minimum wage), because the cost of the mortgage was actually less than I was paying in rent, and I got to own the place at the end of it. Nine years later, I own a house and have paid off my mortgage. It’s a shitty house, yeah, but it puts me in a really good financial position. But I live in a place where the cost of purchasing a home is very low; if I lived somewhere like L.A., I would not have made the same decision.

          • rubymendez said:

            I see all your caveats, but I’m still impressed with buying a house at 23. The paperwork and maintenance are not easy!

  12. Karak said:

    I don’t know you, OP, but it sounds like you need a wife–someone who takes on the burden of social planning, food, and maintaining the home. Or you need someone that moves as fast as you that you can split the work, or who will agree to get a cook and maid.

    You need to have the Scary Conversation. You need to lay it out–you feel like he’s stuck, he’s unhappy, you can’t help him and you’re about to leave. Ask him what’s next.

    If he comes back with real answers–depression, secretly wants to be a stay-at-home significant other, hates lawyering, needs to be very close to parents/family–then tough questions can go from there, and you might realize that you guys can work out.

    If he comes back with vague “sure I’ll do better” but no real answers…then get out. Buy his parents some flowers, and go.

    It’s ok to just go. i was in the same relationship. It turned out he was as misersble as I was, and getting out finally pushed him to get what he wanted–in his case, a controlling, domineering woman who would endlessly praise him but also keep his ass on track. He’s happier now. Maybe your dude isn’t happy either. Ask him that as well.

    • JenniferP said:

      This is great advice. I would say brace yourself for the “I’ll do better!” response and a week – 1 month of trying to do better so that you won’t leave, followed by reverting to exactly how things are now as soon as it feels safe and like you’ll stay.

        • neverjaunty said:

          Always great advice.

          • Saint Clair said:

            It’s been long enough and his actions have already spoken. He might use some words to buy time for himself, but this relationship is what it is.

      • Connie-Lynne said:

        Ugh, please don’t gender the support partner into “wife.” Husbands can and should do these things.

        • Emm said:

          My thoughts exactly.

        • TO_Ont said:

          When I’ve heard this joke before that was the point of it…

      • boo! said:

        I think it’s great advice, but I wouldn’t put off moving out while waiting to see if the “I’ll do better” pans out. I think the LW needs to be out of the parents’ house and would benefit from some time alone even if it’s temporary. The moving out doesn’t need to be tied to a break-up if she doesn’t want to break up–the eventual plan is for them both to move out, right? She’s just starting now.

        I don’t know if that’s realistic–for some people, “I can’t live here” is an automatic relationship-ender–but I suspect that having some time alone will bring time for reflection and perspective. Also, the burden of caretaking tends to get lighter when you’re only taking care of yourself.

      • sometimeswhy said:

        I would also brace for or at least be cautious of the possibility that he might come back and say, “Yes! I want to be your stay-at-home-SO! I will do all the things!” and then… not.

        I had one of those, briefly. My first relationship after becoming a single parent. He wanted to switch jobs to work a fun thing part-time and then take care of the house and carry the majority of the time-related aspects of childcare (transport to and from, playdates, morning routines) while I worked greater than full-time and carried the majority of the financial aspects of the household while also taking on the emotional aspects of childcare and being in on the housekeeping rotation. You will be shocked, I’m sure to learn that a lot more went into childminding and housekeeping than he thought, me being on the housekeeping rotation quickly turned into me doing most of it, and I left because doing it all for two people–one of whom was a child who was barely old enough to pick up their own toys–was easier and less rage-inducing than doing it all for three.

    • adgisga said:

      kinda uncomfortable with the “you need a wife”. plenty of women ACTUALLY have wives, and we don’t split our roles in relationships in the same abusive way as hetero people do.

      • Emmers said:

        I think it’s a reference to the old satire piece about the invisible, unpaid labor that women do. Still, though, it would probably have benefited from a more direct and less subtle referencing.

        Found it:
        http://www.columbia.edu/~sss31/rainbow/wife.html

        • adgisga said:

          I understand the reference. It’s still homophobic.

          • Nanani said:

            this doesn’t make it not homophobic

      • MissLynn said:

        And I’m uncomfortable with calling splitting relationship roles abusive.

        I agree that “wife” should be in quotes as the stereotypical being taken care of thing…
        But my husband handles his own shit, his own family, his own career, his own appointments… I handle meals and bills by choice, not because I’m female and he’s male.

        • J said:

          I’m with you. Splitting roles certainly might be abusive but to assume sounds hetero phobic. And the ‘get a wife’ isn’t homophobic it’s perhaps mysogynistic but I think it’s really a ref to the old roles wives were expected to fulfill and in some cases still are. Not a reference to lesbians. Though a way to say it in offensively to all might be ‘get a housekeeper’?

          • adgisga said:

            oh my god, you think heterophobia is real.
            there is no structural oppression of straight people based on sexual orientation.

        • adgisga said:

          and here we see an example of classic Straight Fragility.

          • Dopameanie said:

            You are throwing around some serious terminology at people who are happily leading the lives they want. It’s not abusive to follow gender norms because they happen to work for you. And the term Karak used, “wife”, is at MOST misogynistic. Especially since they took they time to explain what they meant to avoid confusion. The term is not being used AT or ABOUT or even TO you.

            For the record though, I think the correct term here may be “househusband?”

          • MissLynn said:

            I’m not straight, but thanks.

          • Here we see people needlessly diverging the disscousion to decide which specific word is least offensive instead of helping the LW. Please lets continue dissecting every single word in the dictionary. If I had an ounce of witticism in me I would tell you to look up a clever word. But I’m not witty, the same way ya’ll haven’t been helpful on this thread.

          • J said:

            No, just a comment on overuse of the term homophobia. It’s very real as a phenomenon but in this case doesn’t fit. I didn’t say hetero phobia was ‘real’ per se though in a world where fear of string exists I can’t imagine there isn’t at least one hetero phobe kicking around the planet.

          • J said:

            What dopa meanie said

          • Karyn said:

            This is so weird how y’all are reacting to someone calling out the aspects of a comment that does have heterosexist assumptions. I don’t see this kind of pushback when a comment addresses race, ethnicity, gender, body size, etc.

            Yes, we will examine words and their meanings in our society. No, it’s not okay to tell someone ‘that’s not what they meant’ or ‘that’s not offensive’. Intent isn’t magic, as we all know.

      • adgisga said:

        so interesting that usually the response to “hey, this phrasing makes me uncomfortable” on Captain Awkward is usually “oh I hadn’t thought about it that way. maybe I should reconsider” until it’s a lesbian pointing it out.

        • Dopameanie said:

          I kinda think that is precisely the response you COULD have gotten, if that’s all you’d said. But you also threw out the term abuse, brought up straight fragility, and seem determined to stay scandalized when others point out your hostility. Plus you had the bad luck of nitpicking a truly great comment that really might help the LW. I’m not going to comment again, because Ruler of Cats is correct about the derail. I’m bringing this up because we share a common goal of making the world a better and easier place to live in for minorities, and people like you and me (cause I have DEFINITELY done the same thing in the past) risk alienating the very people most likely to be our allies-the people we NEED to help us change the world. Your fire is important, never put it out. Just be careful not to burn the people on your side, or worse: the people who might have come to your side.

          • adgisga said:

            please do look up tone policing.

          • piny1 said:

            Feminists have a long proud history of nitpicking, i.e. examining common words and phrases to see if they can be adjusted and thereby improved for our use. We agree, for example, for purposes of interacting on this site and engaging with its awesome content, to not use offensive terms like “poly” and “crazy” and “transwoman.” And I think it is not cool to respond to that kind of objection with a bunch of spurious and actually disrespectful assertions about collective interests and common stakes and not angering putative allies. We should feel empowered to say things like “Hey, that term is heterosexist,” without being lectured about how we are alienating our betters, I mean supporters. That is not a just response, period, and it is inherently hostile to marginalized people because it converts their stake into a form of sufferance. It places responsibility for their oppression on them, and redefines bigotry as potentially reasonable. “Wife” as a euphemism might not be offensive to everyone, but it does reference a particular set of cultural norms and those norms do deserve scrutiny. For the same reason “chairman” and “waitress” and “longtime companion” did. And even aside from that, lesbians just like all other women deserve the prerogative of critical freedom, not the prior restraint of tone policing and the implicit threat of backlash. So please do not tell some lesbian on the internet that she is responsible, by virtue of being cranky, for perpetuating homophobia on any level. That is actually an extremely homophobic stance to take and it is condescending and reactionary.

          • fancifulscientist said:

            I was really relieved to see adgisga’s comment, up to and including the word abuse. The use of the word “wife” in the initial comment made me uncomfortable too.

            My queerness – and my perspective as a woman married to a woman – certainly informed that feeling. Being on the outside of an institution (like heterosexual marriage), and building a life outside that institution that borrows some and rejects other pieces from it, gives me a constant lens to examine the assumptions the institution was built on. One of them is that there is a normal or natural way to split labor in a partnership; seeing that the typical split of labor assigns certain and more tasks to women, assumes a natural competence in care-taking and emotional labor, and loads on the guilt if these tasks are not done – maybe it’s easier from the liminal, outsider perspective of a queermo in a queer relationship.

            Seen through that lens, heteronormative marriage is often abusive. (Same- and opposite-sex couples can and do participate in heteronormative marriage.) Because it is common or typical or culturally accepted does not make the structure less prone to abuse, or mean that there are not many, many straight marriages where individuals resist that abusive tendency with intention and kindness. Because you personally are fine with these gender roles and the resulting structures doesn’t mean that they are not tilted toward harm (or that your acceptance is not also a result of their ubiquity and cultural strength; our preferences do not exist in a vacuum).

            If it makes you uncomfortable to have a structure you value called harmful, that does not mean the critique is reactionary or wrong. For many of us, saying “you need a wife” is problematic, if common and universally understood. It is certainly misogynistic; and most homophobia can be understood as weaponized misogyny. It’s worth talking about, especially in light of a letter that IS about how the typical relationship split/structure/expectations are dramatically falling down for this couple.

        • Glittering Girl said:

          So, why are you here again? What with all the rampant homophobia? I’m sure there are “purer” advice sites out in the internet wilds that are totes not in the hands of Our Oppressive Heterosexual Overlords.

          • piny1 said:

            Hey, no, this comment is hostile, and exclusionary, and gross, and you’re not just alienating the lesbian you’re presently annoyed with. Knock it off.

          • Honestly adgisga sounds like a troll impersonating what “a sleep deprived college stundent who was up all night on tumblr” sounds like. Adgisga just goes throwing around buzz words where they don’t apply to the situation. Regardless if they are or aren’t a troll they sure are acting that way, and are direling this whole thread (which was meant to help the LW) into a “you are offensive” “noo you are more offensive” argument.

          • Karyn said:

            Ruler of Cats, this site has always called out problematic stuff in the comments. This is not different. This is not new. Why is this derailing, when all the other stuff that’s come before is not?

        • J said:

          I didn’t assume you were a lesbian. Just bc someone calls something homophobic incorrectly doesn’t mean they are gay or lesbian. Just like not everyone who says something is antisemitic is Jewish. Goodness so many assumptions and so much anger. We are not on opposite sides here

          • piny1 said:

            Good grief.

            You guys should stop? This is really inappropriate? #MeToo was pretty recent, along with its corollaries, #ShutUPMen, #NoButSHUTUP #SHUTIT #SHUT #SHUTUP. I’m pretty sure we egged Matt Damon’s house at some point. We should all be especially wary of responding to “Hey, that was fucked up,” with, “We’re all on the same side here!” “You’re the real bigot, with your baseless assumptions about how you will be treated based on your marginalized status under patriarchy!” and/or “Ugh, you know, when you overshoot like this you just wind up alienating all the good ones.”

            Oh, and “Well, ACTUALLY, here’s what this word REALLY means….”

            And I seem to remember several comments from men along the lines of, “Ha, yeah, President of the He-Man Women Hater’s Club here! We just HATE WOMEN, isn’t that right boys? Big damn MISOGYNISTS, ha ha. Ha.” I didn’t find that funny.

            It is not unreasonable to read unexamined bigotry into this kind of dismissal. I frankly think that this thread is a demonstration of a common tacitly bigoted response to critique. I think you are displaying a lot of disproportionate, punitive hostility towards someone who pointed out that the word “wife” is associated with some…heterosexist…ideas. And that it is therefore objectionable and inaccurate to at least some queer people. That is not exactly a fringe interpretation.

            Just as someone calling out subtle anti-semitism would reasonably worry about being dismissed for being Jewish – you know, not objective, oversensitive, inclined to that whole persecution complex thing – it is not unreasonable that a lesbian who calls out homophobia as she perceives it would worry about being dismissed for being a lesbian. (It is definitely not unreasonable that she would worry about being perceived as someone personally impacted by homophobia.) That is actually a thing that happens a lot, it is actually marginalization in a nutshell, and your comment about “Goodness so much anger!” is an example.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          Yeah that’s right we’re all secret homophobes.

          • fancifulscientist said:

            We ARE, actually. Living in a homophobic heterosexist (misogynistic transphobic racist classist) society means that we breathe in some toxic beliefs without knowing it. I know that I catch myself – a queer person, a teacher of children of color, a friend to many trans folks – falling into some troubling habitual thoughts that I have to actively counter. Just because I’m not straight and vote progressive doesn’t mean I’m not also living in this miasma of harm.

            Oppressive beliefs are like a chronic disease with which we are all infected. They can be managed with vigilance, but they cannot be avoided or eradicated. If we assume that we are not potentially perpetrators of systemic harm, it’s very likely that when it is pointed out that we are infected, we will spew them all over everyone.

      • Aris Merquoni said:

        Okay, the only thing that bothers me about this is the framing that hetero relationships have abusive role-splitting and lesbian relationships don’t.

        Abusers use anything to hand to abuse. Heteronormative role-splitting is used abusively because surprise, it’s all over the place and abusers are all over the place. If we valued home-making work the way we did breadwinning work that framing of abuse would be less prevalent, in both straight AND queer couples. And I’ve seen enough “We’re lesbians so obviously what I’m doing to you isn’t abusive” that it gets my hackles up.

        You’re right that “you need a wife” is homophobic and sexist and weird because gender and gender roles. But. Abuse is its own thing.

        • gin_undermyskin said:

          Thank you for saying what I was thinking but wasn’t able to articulate.

          And to the people getting salty about being called out at all, surely we can handle being told that something we’re saying is oppressive? Let’s not act in ways that we don’t want men to act when we say that something is sexist.

    • TootsNYC said:

      I vote just go.

      Don’t have any conversations; they’re not going to help, and you’ve already probably had them.

      If it’s going to be too hard, then don’t make it be “we’re breaking up.”

      Just say, “I’ve decided I don’t want to live in your parents’ house anymore, and I need some mental space when I come home from my stressful job. So I’m going to move into this little studio and live there.”

      Leave the “breaking up” part for later, if that’s what it takes to get yourself out.

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        Yup. Just rent the studio, and be like “Im’a stay here now – you stay with your mommy. I’ll drop by for nookie on Saturdays.” Either he’ll get his act together or he’ll keep being the lump he is now, but either way, she needs to back off and let him make his own moves.

        • Karyn said:

          The only thing I disagree with here is that she ought not go over to his folks’ house for sex. If he wants sex, he can drag hisself out and go to her place.

    • I’m acearo but I’m available for hiring as a housewife (lol)

      • Dopameanie said:

        OMG I would pay so much money for someone ELSE to do all the laundry bath the babiez and mop. Those Mormons were onto something, I tellz ya! Hell, I may even volunteer for the guest bedroom:)

        • I like laundry, I love babies, and I will mop if you tell me you appreciate it.

          I would be a great housespouse if I had an interest in getting married XD

          • Dopameanie said:

            So the reason I need a housespouse and not just hire a maid is that I ALSO need you to not look at my home with the Judgy Eyes. If I was a maid? I would Judge eeeeevery home I ever stepped into. I cannot imagine someone having that job and not Judging. This is why housespouses are so valuable.

          • Calgon take me away, I could totally do that XD

          • Anonyish said:

            If you’re good at organising, you could look at working as a servant for the superrich. You can get paid a lot of money, although you do have to put up with their personalities.

          • Temperance said:

            @Dopa: I seriously don’t care if my housekeeper judges how dirty my house is! I mean, that’s why we pay for a cleaning service, because I’m not a clean person.

    • Dopameanie said:

      SO MUCH THIS.
      When you are a go-getter type person it’s SO important to have someone to counterbalance your ambition with “uh, when is the last time you ate a vegetable and got 8hrs of sleep?” But while someone keeping house CAN be doing half the work of the household, not everyone is cut out for it.

      Warning signs to be on the lookout for during the Scary Conversation:
      -can’t you just be happy with where we are now?
      -I just need YOU to support me more/treat me better/tell me what to do!
      -it’s not my fault!
      -you’re acting crazy. Be rational and you’ll see it my way.
      -so you think you’re better than me?
      -who are you cheating on me with?
      -this is all your fault for not (fill in the blank)

      Man, it’s like Bad Boyfriend Bingo in this comment. Anyway, if you sense any of the above RUN.

  13. CleverGirl said:

    You shouldn’t have to parent unless you want to, and you definitely shouldn’t have to parent a grown man.

    Get out now. He is not going to change. And even if he did, you are 100% not obligated to stick around, putting your life on hold for YEARS, while he does so.

    (Also, from personal experience, he is HIGHLY likely to get resentful and petulant about your thriving career as your star rises and he stays in the same sorry place. Don’t put yourself through this.)

  14. BigDogLittleCat said:

    LW, it sounds like you know you cannot last in your current living situation, that you have to get out.
    Sadly, changing where you live won’t solve anything because the problem isn’t living in his parents’ house nor even his job history. The problem is he’s willing to continue living with his parents and to keep bouncing from job to job,* so if you change your living situation and drag your partner into it with you, your partner will drag his life situation along with him.

    You can’t change your partner. After four years how likely is he to change himself?

    Follow the captain’s advice. If your moving out gives him the boot to the rear he needs to adult up, great. If not, you know you made the right decision, rather than investing more of your life waiting for a change that isn’t coming.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Forgot to add my postscript: *his willingness to continue living with his parents and to keep bouncing from job to job doesn’t make him a bad person. It only makes him not the right partner for you.

  15. Now that you are working your way up your organization, I agree that living with your boyfriend’s parents as outlived it’s usefulness. I know that this is difficult to hear, but if you want to eventually rule over this mud ball, you need to be free of people like Starscreem.

  16. Anyone else saddened by the ways the LW blames and belittles herself? She’s the mothering type (obviously! she says, as though nothing else could be making her partner so lax on the emotional labour front). She “somehow” got a law firm to hire her and “allow” her to go from 0-100 career-wise (a true mystery! It couldn’t possibly be because of her drive and talent and skill). It breaks my heart, the way women are taught to make themselves so small.

    • Erin said:

      I had a similar experience with my ex husband to the LW’s relationship (unmotivated, felt like I was his mother, wouldn’t contribute to the household chores, etc) and your comment reminded me of something my therapist once said, specifically the first parenthesis. I was telling her how uncomfortable I felt asking my family to watch my daughter if I had something I needed to do (like take an exam for college) or wanted to do (like celebrate the end of exams!). My therapist stopped me and asked if I had ever thought that my ex had trained me to think our daughter was solely my responsibility. I’d never thought of it that way, but she was right and your comment is spot on. To this day, my ex still abdicates much of the responsibility for our daughter, but I’m remarried to a man who shares in the responsibility of raising her. I still find myself second-guessing myself and still feeling solely responsible for her, which just reiterates to me how deeply ingrained this ideology is in my psyche, and in our society.

      • Uptown Transcriber said:

        My therapist stopped me and asked if I had ever thought that my ex had trained me to think our daughter was solely my responsibility.

        My (now-adult) child’s father played in bands, and wondered why I didn’t go to many gigs. I told him if he wanted me to go, he’d have to make it easier, i.e., get a sitter. We lived in the same city as my mother and some siblings, so he felt I could just call them. Note the pronoun; I, not he.

        As to the LW, you sound like a hard-working, ambitious person. Live your life, leave this guy to his own.

    • Lizards80 said:

      That jumped out at me, too. Is it imposter’s syndrome or did it come out of talking down your accomplishments so that your partner won’t feel threatened?

      Others see your talent and drive and skills, LW.

    • storyranger said:

      My heart broke as I was reading that and yet I still do the exact same thing sometimes. I’m lucky to have a partner that does their best to build me up and reminds me of my accomplishments even when my brain wants me to feel useless, but I shudder to think where I’d be was with someone who was threatened by my success because I am not wholly certain I would be brave enough to just walk.

      • I can personally attest to the fact that whenever my human mother achieves something in her field, she will attribute it to everything from luck to coincidence to happenstance. Even in things like doing something good in the house or even cooking, she looks for any and every excuse to attribute it to something other than her own talent or skill. My human dad spends a lot of his time gently reminding her that it’s not “luck” or “just nothing”—it’s because she’s smart and cool and did a cool thing with her brain.

        • storyranger said:

          It took me far too long to realize that you are a cat, and as such it is necessary to specify the species of your adopted parents.
          I’m so glad your human parents are doing a good job taking care of each other ❤

    • Yeah, I caught that too. Others have suggested imposter syndrome and talking oneself down for a male partner’s fragile ego, but I’d suspect there’s also a third factor at play, given what she’s doing — artifacts of being at the high end of the Dunning-Kruger scale in her profession.

      Seriously, I wound up with a lot of thinking that the only reason everybody isn’t walking around with engineering doctorates is merely a matter of resources — only a very few are ever given the chance to try for one. That’s a common artifact of being way off the high end of the competency scale on something — you underrate how hard it is, because hey, you did it and it wasn’t THAT impossible, so it can’t be that hard…but it actually is that hard. Given the kind of work LW is doing and the level of success LW is having, LW is probably way at the Dunning-Kruger high end and underrating LW’s extreme competency simply because that’s what the human brain does as a default.

  17. My situation was very different, but I spent two years on the “this is just what love is and if I can’t hack this I’ll be a lonely failure forever” train.

    Long story short, two weeks after my divorce I was happier than I’d been in years. And almost a decade later I’m still happy and doing more or less what I want with my life (it would be better without the student loans, but you can’t break up with those).

    You haven’t missed any memos, LW. You’re not broken in any way (and, FWIW, you don’t sound codependent–HE does), and you aren’t obligated to be the goads against which this guy kicks. If no one’s ever told you this before, hear it: You deserve to be happy.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      “(it would be better without the student loans, but you can’t break up with those)”

      Aw man, if only! I could be like “you know, I really don’t think we’re right for each other. To be honest, you’re draining and causing me a lot of stress. I think we should break up.”

      • March said:

        Student loans would just go all King George on you: “You say our love is draining and you can’t go ooooon…”

        • Traffic_Spiral said:

          “Cuz when push comes to shove…
          I will send you and your friends and family a zillion pestering letters to remind you of my love!
          Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
          Da da dat dat da ya da!”

          • Audrey said:

            “You say I won’t do any cleaning and you can’t go oooonnn
            You’ll be the one who’s happy when you are gooooooonnnee
            And NO DON’T CHANGE THE SUBJECT
            [piano]
            Because you’re my favorite subject
            My loyal royal subject.
            Forever
            and ever
            and ever and ever and evaaaaaarrrrr”

          • sistercoyote said:

            I love this and you should be proud of yourself and I’m also feeling strangely seen right now. 😉

  18. roramich said:

    LW I know it’s hard to see from inside, but literally everything you need to know, you already wrote in your letter. THIS IS NOT LOVE and deep down where your buried dreams are, you know it. The way you describe trying to sleep in a too small room with a partner watching TV just breaks my heart. YOU ARE A STAR. Stop waiting for him to change, grab the life you want with both hands, stop shrinking yourself, and go for it.

  19. Don't Shoot the Messenger said:

    Dump him and get on with your fabulous life. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. Or, put another way, the sooner you disentangle yourself, the happier you’ll be.

  20. Firecat said:

    LW, big Jedi hugs if you want them. I agree with pretty much everyone else – go find the life you want, kick some ass, and don’t worry about dragging him along with you; he doesn’t want to go. If he’s happy living with his parents, and needs to kick around for awhile to figure out what he wants and how to get there, there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s also nothing wrong with what you want; it just isn’t a good fit for both of you.

    So, my advice is:

    Make sure your finances are separate from his, if they’re not already.

    Find a place to live, just you. Even if it’s tiny.

    Look at getting an Instant Pot. Seriously. They’re great for busy people because you can cook real food fairly quickly. It can also function as a slow cooker and any number of other things. Plus, if you’re cooking for one, you could make something and have leftovers for dinner the next night, or for lunch. So you can focus on your amazing career, but also have real meals.

    He is no doubt a great guy in many ways, but he doesn’t seem to be what you need in a partner right now. And that is completely ok. Set him free, and put the energy you’ve been putting into him into making the life you want, and exploring everything that’s out there. You absolutely deserve it, and so much more.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      “Look at getting an Instant Pot.”

      This. While she didn’t ask for Cooking Advice For the Thrifty and Busy, I think she could be pleasantly surprised to discover that there’s a lot of stuff you can do (make lasagnas, casseroles and stews and freeze them in single-serving sizes for later along with slices of really good wholegrains bread; find the good grocery store deli that’s on your way home anyways; have sandwich meat, eggs, cheese, and lettuce in the fridge; etc.) which she probably will do once she ditches the Lethargarian.

  21. tawg said:

    I know it’s hard to break up (and stay broken up) when you’re living with someone and both of you are miserable. My tip is: move out, then break up. Since you’re being recruited by other firms, now sounds like a great time to start thinking about where you’d like to work – what kind of company, what kind of area, what part of the country etc. Accept the job, move out, say “I’ll call you in a week when I’m settled”, and then you’re in a much more safe and stable place to break up (and stay broken up!). Or you could stay together, but have the space to thrive yourself and let your partner see what he can do without you pushing him along. (That’s what I did – I ended up breaking up with my then-partner anyway, but it took another six months for me to really get my self esteem into a place where I was breaking up with him because “this is all kinds of fucked up and I deserve so much better” rather than “I’m not happy – but maybe if we both change entirely I could be happy??”)

    • Temperance said:

      Just chiming in: she’s a lawyer, so it’s not really quite as simple as her being able to pick up and move far away. Our registration is state-by-state. I can work in PA and NJ right now, but I’d have to take the bar exam for a bunch of other states, unless I was able to waive in.

  22. J said:

    LW it doesn’t sound like you think much of BF. Sounds like your assessment is I’m great he’s terrible. For both your sakes end it, since you obviously have no kind word for him and perhaps he doesn’t deserve a kind word, I’ll defer to you. But would you really want to be with someone if this was how they described you? If you care for him maybe allow him to find someone who likes him at his current level and you go find someone who lives up to your measure. You are very clear he isn’t up to your standards.

    • DesertRose said:

      I’m not sure where you’re getting that the LW doesn’t think much of her partner, to say nothing of “I’m great, he’s terrible.”

      Ambition is not a character flaw, and LW being tired of doing all the work in a six-year-long relationship is pretty fucking understandable from my chair.

      • Rodon said:

        “I’m not sure where you’re getting that the LW doesn’t think much of her partner”
        She says she’s mothering him, which means that she doesn’t really see him as an adult.
        She seems to fault him for his lack of professional success.
        She certainly faults him for still living with his parents.

        So, yes, she doesn’t think highly of her boyfriend. She doesn’t really respect (important parts of) him. Maybe he doesn’t deserve her respect, but that is irrelevant. If she cannot respect her partner then she should leave him.

        • Temperance said:

          Or ….

          1.) Women are conditioned to do domestic tasks. Men are not. A man who is not pulling his weight is not an adult. A man who expects his partner to be his bangmaid is a King Baby.

          2.) He lost a job, and isn’t trying very hard to get established. So yeah, that sucks.

          3.) They’re in a committed relationship and she’s stuck living with his parents, in his childhood bedroom. This is classing Failure to Launch. That sucks.

          He is lazy about housework, about getting out of his family home, and his career. Why does she need to “respect” that, exactly?

          • Nanani said:

            She can respect that he can prefer not launching. Launching isn’t an obligation. However, because of 1) it’s easy to fall into respecting his preference as meaning she must also stay on his level forever.
            I think several comments are trying to separate your 1) from 2) and 3)..

            It’s not really an “or” situation. However, LW can only change herself. She can’t force partner to launch, but she CAN end the relationship, or at least the part where she is living with him and delaying her own launch.

    • Temperance said:

      I think that this is inaccurate and unfair towards the LW, and the exact sort of criticism that is levied at smart, badass women who are doing well and want partners who support them and want to excel. There’s nothing wrong with that, LW is not a bad person for that. I mean, FFS, they’re both lawyers … there’s no reason for Failure to Launch to be the story of their lives.

    • Cassandra said:

      She’s not obligated to eat up wordcount explaining that no, really, he’s a lovely guy etc. I think we can all take it for granted that they’ve been together for a reason and he has good qualities. It’s just pretty clear that they’re not compatible. There doesn’t always have to be a bad guy, and I hardly think the Letter Writer framed her boyfriend as a villain.

    • “Lives up to your measure” isn’t a fair assessment of LW’s feelings. She hasn’t just described someone with a lack of ambition, she’s described someone who didn’t hold the jobs he had because of poor performance. Who can’t be bothered to do contribute to the household work even though she works and he doesn’t.

      In the face of objectively bad behavior, she could have been a lot harsher than she was.

    • Yeah I’m inclined to agree. The letter writer describes the boyfriend literally as a burden that she has to drag, someone who has fallen behind and can’t keep up with her, in a rut, etc. I assume it’s because her frustration is talking (I’d be pretty frustrated too if I were coordinating all the meals while stuck in his childhood bedroom, etc.). It’s not a criticism of the LW that she sounds super frustrated. But that kind of resentment really eats away at a person when her energy could be devoted instead to building herself up as a single lawyer, and it’s something she has the power to change. I do wonder if the resentment has caused her to set up a false dichotomy of “fellow fast-paced lawyer versus burdensome boyfriend who lives with parents.” There are so many other possibilities out there that are supportive, challenging and nurturing. But hey, maybe she’ll find exactly what she currently wants and be satisfied!

      From the letter, it’s like she must prove the boyfriend guilty in order to have permission to want something different, but of course she has been entitled to want what she wants all along. Even if the boyfriend found a great job tomorrow she could still go just because she wanted to. I did also get the sense that the LW thinks she’s great and is maybe trying to hide it, and you know what? IMO she should own it! No one’s got time for this “I don’t take care of #1 so it’s really my fault, gee somehow I managed to get hired, am I wrong for wanting reasonable things” business. I got the distinct sense that clear-headed ambition and self-confidence were leaking through the self-effacing language women are taught to use. Go be great, LW!

      PS. DO NOT buy a house with this guy! I second other commenters’ suggestions to rent for a little while.

  23. Dear LW

    Two points :
    1. Nothing in your letter spells codependent. Nothing.
    2. Imagine that he won’t change. If that’s not the life you want, take the Captain’s advice.

    Good luck to you.

  24. LW– Even if you’re a mothering type, that doesn’t mean you have to end up with a romantic partner you mother. Every other guy I dated besides my DH, I ended up being put in a mom role which I ended up kind of resenting. With him, I’m not and I never was. I don’t know what it is except maybe he’s more responsible and more thoughtful than any other guy I dated so I never felt the need to “save” him and when we do kind things, we’re both doing them for each other. If anything, I sometimes feel like he does more than his fair share of running the household, though he thinks we’re about equal. We both have high powered careers.

    With one exception, all the previous guys were perfectly nice, but I didn’t and don’t want to be the character in the story who “saves” the imperfect hero– I want a joint tale in which we both have our own narratives and grow together.

  25. neverjaunty said:

    LW, as a fellow lawyer, I would like to focus on the career thing rather than the relationship for a sec:

    1) Staying with your boyfriend is going to mess up your career trajectory. Full stop. In a demanding career you do not have the luxury of wasting your energy on mothering a grown-ass person.

    2) Being a lawyer doesn’t mean your partner has the skills to succeed. It means he managed to keep it together long enough to get through law school and pass the bar. That’s literally all. And, as you advance in your career, you will run into a lot of people who shouldn’t be lawyers and suck at their jobs but eke along because they don’t know what else to do.

    3) Related to #1, a lot of dudes – yes, even and perhaps especially dudes who are in competitive professions like law – are cool with a successful partner as long as she is not as successful as he is, and does the major share of the emotional labor.

    Re-direct your mothering and co-dependent every to taking care of your work projects and your clients. Don’t waste it on a guy who you already know you need to ditch.

    • Liz said:

      Second this. I am a lawyer married to a man very similar to the LW’s boyfriend. We have a house of our own only due to my work. He hasn’t worked in 4 years, I work long days and come home and have to do all of the cooking and cleaning (which of course is never good enough and he says I’m lazy for not doing enough) and he won’t let me hire a cleaning lady. And now he wants me to move and have me quit right before I’m up for partner because he doesn’t like the cold weather where we live (says it aggregates an old injury). My point is I’m kind of miserable and it’s so much harder to extricate yourself once your married. Get out! Now! And don’t look back.

      • Temperance said:

        Oh Liz, I’m so, so sorry. I think you know this, but you don’t deserve this sort of treatment. I’m not going to say anything negative about your husband because, well, you know what kind of man he is, and you sound like you know what to do. Just … don’t let him take that sweet partner salary that you so richly deserve.

      • Liz, if you want a random person on the internet’s opinion, I think you should move.

        Away from him.

      • Redgirl said:

        It is harder to extricate yourself once you’re married.

        It is not, however, impossible. I know. I just did it. It was less hard than I thought it would be. It was much more freeing than I imagined.

        I hope you are able to do what’s best for you, whatever that ends up being.

      • Queen of Scarves said:

        Liz here are big Jedi hugs if you want them.

        You clearly have drive, focus, energy and skill if you are about to be made partner! Some of that could be turned to the project of extricating yourself from the marriage if that is what you want.

        I think step 1 is to hire the cleaner already, and maybe get an instant pot as someone suggested above – that will free up your non-work energy to then quietly make sure you put money aside that he can’t get to, and assemble a Team You. There are great posts in the archive with good strategies for this.

        If I’m honest, I think consciously or not your husband realises this, which is why he puts so much friction around housework for you, so your energy is mobilized over cooking and cleaning rather than taking care of yourself.

        He could be the best person in the world, and it would still not be OK for him not to “let you” spend the money that *you* earn on something that improves your quality of life. Don’t even get me started on criticising work he is not willing to participate in (but refer to the previous paragraph for a possible reason why he does this).

        I would hire a cleaner, present it as a very positive fait accompli “this is so great I found a cleaner it’s going to make things so much easier”, then when he inevitably complains and criticises their work, be a broken record about it – “I think it’s a good way to spend my money” “I think their work is fine” “I’m so happy to come home to a clean home!” and possibly even “you can do it, or the cleaner can do it. I’m not doing it anymore.”

        Be safe, and take care of yourself : you deserve it.

        • crooked bird said:

          I would love it if she could, but she can’t hire a cleaner against his wishes. He has time to be home all day. He an be there when the cleaner shows up and fire them. I’ve been a cleaner. Even if you realize the wife doesn’t actually want to fire you–that’s worse. No way you stick around when it gets that messy.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Liz, I hope you are getting out of this situation but… you understand that you don’t need his permission to hire a cleaning service or make partner?

      • Rhoda said:

        I think you already know you really should divorce this anchor around your neck…

      • Madison said:

        You know why divorce is so expensive? Because it is Worth It!

        He doesn’t like where you live? The cold all-of-a-sudden aggravates an old injury he just remembered now that you’re up for a major promotion and need to stay? Well, that’s fair, because his presence is aggravating that last nerve of yours that he keeps stomping on. Let him carry his own azz wherever he wants to be. You don’t have to go.

        He wants to complain about the way you do things? Well, she who attempts the cooking and cleaning succeeds 100% more of the time that he who can’t be bothered to get up off his azz and even try. She who handles 100% of the housework gets Full, Uncontested Control over how those chores get done. And sometimes, the cheapest way to pay for a thing is with money. You should not be needing his “permission” to do anything at all with your own hard-earned funds, especially when it comes to the care and upkeep of your house. Your responsibility; your sacrifice; your spoons; your decision to make. He either pitches in, or says “thank you” and gets the hell out of the way.

        He won’t “let” you? Just because you graced this man with the kindness of your commitment to marriage and home-buying, that does NOT make him the boss of any damn thing. Not ever. The point of a marriage is that you mutually support each other. But look where he puts his energy instead. He’s be plopping his azz down like an anchor on your life, and sabotaging what he can’t impede, and then has the audacity to critique the way you continue to succeed in spite of his best efforts to the contrary.

        You don’t owe him forever when he refuses to even give you one day. You have value far greater than this, and it sounds like he is keeping you too worn down to even see it. You deserve to walk the journey of this one life we get together with someone who invests in you the same way you invest in them, and with equal return on that investment. If you’re already paying for everything, and doing everything alone, then you know you’re capable. So, how much better would your life be without the personal critic/man-child/self-appointed supervisor who has latched on to you for the ride?

        You deserve that better life. Lay your burden down.

      • L said:

        It’s harder to extricate yourself, yes, but it’s not impossible. And it’ll be even harder down the road.

        He wants you to move? Cool. Do it. Without him.

      • Oh Liz! That’s so rough.

        Please don’t quit. Be a partner in your firm.

        Jedi hugs if you want them.

  26. e271828 said:

    LW, you know that this relationship is viable only as long as you dedicate your entire life to life support. You have given this man six years of emotional CPR while waiting for him to get his act together and he is not going to do it. This is who he is.

    Do not buy a house with this man. Do not sign a lease with this man. Go talk to a realtor or leasing agent on your own and sign papers with your name only, paying for it with money from your very own bank account. And if it’s in a city miles away, maybe relocation would be a very good thing for you.

    …I assume you have not entangled yourself financially with your boyfriend, but if you have, take what is yours and close the joint accounts, and if more than half of any “mutual” account came from you, do not stint yourself because you feel guilty about leaving him to sit in his childhood bedroom watching TV. (And conversely, pay off your fair share of any mutual debt, of course. But I hope you have not incurred debt with him.)

    [I know a woman who moved in with her boyfriend’s parents in 1989 or so. They got married. They had three children. Their children are graduating from high school now. They are still living in the husband’s parents’ house with their children and she has stopped hoping they will use any of the furnishings and household goods they acquired together early in the relationship in a home of their own. And now the parents are frail and they need someone living with them…]

  27. He’s unlikely to change…so it is up to you to decide your fate and make those changes yourself!

  28. B said:

    LW major red flag is that your partner is both floundering on the financial/job front AND not doing anything on the domestic front. What are they bringing to this relationship for you? Even though ya’ll are living in his parents house it sounds like there still are be substantial living expenses given the described financial situation despite both you working all the time (I guess there could be student loans, but those usually don’t eat up so much that there’s nothing left over for usual rent, etc)
    “Love” is not a slog. Sometimes it can mean doing some work but it shouldn’t be an endless toil with no reward. A proper relationship is something both partners should benefit from. It’s okay to break up if things just aren’t where you want them to be. It’s ok to break up for pretty much any reason that includes “I don’t want to be with this person anymore”. So yeah LW, if these things about your partner make you want to leave, then please do so.

    • Anonyish said:

      It struck me as notable that his failure on the domestic front is leading directly to the financial challenges. Their expenses are higher than they should be because he isn’t doing his share of domestic work, which leads to extra costs, which leads to not saving, which keeps them in their existing position. He doesn’t have to be thinking through it deliberately for his actions to be creating this vicious circle of keeping things where they are.

      • crooked bird said:

        Agree! With this and B’s comment, very much. Total lack of willingness on display here.

  29. Nopetopus Cowgirl said:

    At some point after breaking up with my partner I realized that not only had I become the only income earner (voluntarily for a while, then involuntarily) but she begrudged me my career success and spoke of my work disdainfully and told me I was “bragging” if I ever mentioned any kind of work success to a friend. Like if I said, in reply to close friends who had asked, “I think the presentation was well-received,” she’d say it was embarrassing how self-promoting I was.

    After a time I also came to believe that anyone who said I was good at what I did was just being polite, that any success I had was due to luck and that any minute people would find out the “truth” about me.

    LW your difficulty valuing your skill and feeling worthy may have nothing to do with your relationship issues. Or the two may have the same root. Or your boyfriend might be taking it out on you that he is having difficulty finding his place professionally. I don’t know. But think about it.

    Also think about being in a relationship with someone who never makes you food. I’m sure this is Just Fine for many people, but for me cooking with and for someone is all about love, warmth and appreciation. A lovely sandwich with some sliced apples, or coffee and toast made just for me makes me feel loved. I’m not talking blue ribbon here. This is especially important when one person is doing a lot more of the outside-the-home labor and the other person is not picking up the slack on the home front. It sounds like LW is experiencing the ways that the double-duty thing wears you right down.

  30. Temperance said:

    LW, I have so many things that I want to say to you. I’m also a lawyer. I love lawyering. I love everything about being a lawyer, even the drudgery stuff, even when I work 14 hours in a day, even when I have to work for a long ass time and then go to a networking event. LOVE IT ALL. I’m glad that your career has taken off and that you’re making a name for yourself. OWN IT.

    I think you should read “Lean In”, if you haven’t already. Own how fucking great you are, because YOU. ARE. GREAT.

    Your boyfriend is unambitious, for one reason or another. TBH, I was honestly shocked at the whole “two lawyers living with someone’s parents” thing. We generally make a decent amount of money. Enough to rent an apartment in most reasonably priced cities, at least. He is happy being parented and taken care of, and you’ll be stuck in that role if you two end up married or buying a house. You’ll not only be bringing home the bacon, you’ll be expected to fry it up in a pan and wash his underwear and whatnot.

    It’s totally fine for you to want a partner who has his shit together, who doesn’t want to live with his mom, and who has a career on the upswing. I love having a partner who supports my career and also has his own. It’s super important to me, as someone who grew up poor and doesn’t want to live that way as an adult.

  31. Me said:

    One thing I’d like to stress – DO NOT BUY A HOUSE RIGHT NOW!!!

    Seriously – if you do somehow manage to drag your boyfriend through the house buying process (you’ll do all the work, of course), it will make it much, much more difficult to separate your lives when you finally get fed up with doing everything and want to move on. And if you decide to leave him and buy a house, it dumps a ton of expensive responsibility on you, and makes it harder for you to make changes in your life.

    Rent an apartment. Not a big one (more to clean and furnish), but one that has a separate bedroom and a kitchen. Make the lease in your own name. Keep the furniture simple, but buy an instant pot, a rice cooker, and a small freezer, and spring for your own laundry facilities if possible. Move into it. Do not let your boyfriend move in with you – if he wants to, he can find his *own* apartment, all by himself (which, by the way, would be an excellent measure of whether he’s really ready to move out, or just taking the easiest path). Make your focus *you* – developing your career, taking care of yourself, spending time with friends.

    If you’ve got your own kitchen, and your own schedule, it’s much easier to batch cook food for the week ahead, and then boil pasta or cook rice, thaw out some stew or sauce, and add a bagged salad or veggie sticks and dip. You can get a good night sleep in a quiet bedroom. You can base your financial planning on your income and career, without the vain hope that your partner will contribute the way you want them too.

  32. Dopameanie said:

    OK, True Story time:
    I had a buddy once whose wife was the mothering type. To an unhealthy extreme. He eventually got so fed up with being the SOLE RECIPIENT of all that motherance that he (on total impulse, to hear him tell it, tho I have my doubts) went out and bought her this super-rare fancy-pants snake. And she LOVES that snake. She talks to it, feeds it fancy snake-vitamins, she KNITTED IT A SNAKE-COAT (for the Instagram pics, *obviously*). It has hats. It lives in a cage with better climate control than my house. My buddy gets to pick out his own work clothes now, his wife gets to dote without anyone getting resentful, and he says they are much happier.

    If you, LW, are serious about your own tendencies around inappropriate mothering….maybe ditch this dude and foster a pet? Perhaps some sort of complicated rainforest plant? You are not TRAPPED by your own personality. You just have to work with it instead of against it.

    • mice dancing on the keyboard said:

      Welp I just had a profound realisation about myself, I’m going to have to have a long talk about this with my phlebodium aureum, thanks.

      • Dopameanie said:

        I’m just gonna have to say, that was one of the weirder clickholes I’ve fallen down. Thank you sincerely for the mention of the fern! I hope you two are very happy together. ❤

        • Signe Drekkar said:

          Yes, yes it was! But also so very nice and not-weird in other ways. 😊

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      Wow…that’s an awesome fix!

    • Audrey said:

      This is amazing

    • “You are not TRAPPED by your own personality. You just have to work with it instead of against it.”

      Hooooly crap, that’s so true! I’ll be thinking about this for a while!

  33. LE said:

    A relationship is supposed to go both ways. It sounds like he’s not meeting some of your needs, and it sounds like, with these recent career opportunities, his lack of fulfilling your needs is becoming more of a problem. And what seems like the biggest problem is that he hasn’t demonstrated any attempt to try and meet those needs.

    I’m currently underway with leaving a group project I care very much about because I am the only one actually putting in the work to keep it maintained. The reward I get for working on something I care about is not enough anymore. It’s not worth it. I can find something else where I can do that without having to pull all the weight alone.

  34. Cassandra said:

    Breaking up sucks and whatever, but once you’ve made it happen you may be shocked by how soon you feel okay—and then much better than okay.

  35. Sarah said:

    The Captain’s advice is something I wish I’d heard 25 years ago. Now I’m pretty well stuck in a cage of my own design.

  36. slfisher said:

    I worry that accidentally or on purpose, he’s going to sabotage your career.

    • Oh, gods, this is frighteningly possible.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Simply being a whiny drain on her life is sabotage enough, IMO.

  37. thelonelyolive said:

    Just a thought, but you don’t necessarily have to break up before you move out, if you’re not sure you’re ready for that yet. You can always say something like, “Look, I get that you’re pretty comfortable where you are right now, but I really need my own place. I’m going to go rent an apartment for me that I like. When you feel ready, we’ll look at finding a place together.”
    I mean, I think it’s very likely that he won’t be ready, and you’d need to be careful that you don’t just end up with him settling his butt in a place you’ve done all the work of finding. Be very clear that this is *your* place, and if he wants you to have a joint place, he needs to step up. But if breaking up right now feels like too much, I just want to point out that breaking up isn’t a prerequisite to you moving out of his parents’ house. You get your own space to think about what you want next.
    Honestly, I’m on team You Should Probably Break Up, but it might be a lot easier to make that decision when you’ve been living in your own space on your own terms for a bit and can see what that’s like for you.

    • thelonelyolive said:

      On preview, what TootsNYC said.

    • Queen of Scarves said:

      A friend of mine did that. When she moved out of the house she and her husband owned together, it wasn’t with the goal of breaking up. But they did break up and get a divorce about a year later, they managed to disentangle their lives, and they are now both super happy with new partners. They just were no longer a god fit for each other.

  38. Angelique said:

    ‘Trying to convince him for four years’ – aaagh!… He has shown he really doesn’t want to, or just isn’t bothered at all!… There’s your excuse to follow the Captain’s advice: seriously, start looking for your own place. If he is upset, be like ‘I know you haven’t been keen to move, so I don’t want to put pressure on you, and I found a place for ME. If you want to live with me, how about you do some work finding a place for US, and then we’ll talk. For now, though, I’m going to move out and live HERE.’

    • Angelique said:

      PS in a way, I would LOVE to be back living with my mum. Free food in the fridge!… Safe warm house!… Financial freedom while I do my art!… I think I can understand where someone like that is coming from. However, I do not live with my mum, because I am an adult and I love my partner, and as annoying as it is to pay bills and have discussions about buying houses, those things are a choice I make, and I choose to be a responsible adult who pays her own bills. Maybe my standard of living would be higher if I lived with my mum. But my partner would never put up with that. Neither should you.

      My flat is messy and it is a rented flat, but it is filled with my things and it is mine 🙂

      • Rhoda said:

        I sometimes think it’s a good thing that I’d rather have chewed an arm off rather than ever live with my parents again. I couldn’t wait to be free of them and have my own place. Not that abusive parents are a good thing, but you do tend to get independent at a very young age when you have them. 🙂

        • B said:

          Eh. My parents are absolutely great and I don’t like living with them because we are just pretty different people; we love each other but a little space just works better or we butt heads. And it’s not even worth all the delicious food and freedom from domestic chores. I love visiting them but most people need their own space.
          That being said in many cultures multigenerational family units are pretty normal, and my mom-in-law lives close to us and it’s a great, symbiotic relationship; as she gets older etc the plan is to get a house where she has her own suite so we all have space and easy access. So living with parents can be a normal part of adulting, the problem is when it’s more of an arrested development situation.

      • Aris Merquoni said:

        I would just like to plant a flag here and say that for some people, the responsible adult thing is to live with their parents.

        Nucleation of families is a fairly recent phenomenon, even in the USA, and it’s not everyone’s cultural default. And even in that cultural default, sometimes living with family is better.

        It’s not right for you. It’s not right for the LW. But it’s right for some people, and they’re not failing at adulting to do so.

  39. RiverSongTam said:

    Just scanned the comments to see that no one beat me to the punch yet, and I have to say I have a song that is just too perfect not to put here (Jennifer Lopez – Ain’t Your Mama, in case the link gets eaten or doesn’t work): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pgmx7z49OEk
    Apparently it’s about two years old, but I’ve managed to miss it until yesterday. I personally think it can be featured in every other post here and on Dear Prudence, but this particular letter was made for it to order.

    LW, I wish you the best of luck in your budding career and awesome life! You don’t need this guy or anyone else to try and hold you down.

  40. Farmergirl said:

    I unconsciously followed CA’s plan when I was in a similar situation. I always dreamt of moving and working abroad, and my partner said he wanted that too, he just always had an excuse why now was not the right time. I eventually went on my own to work on an awesome project (less far away than I originally wanted, but still). Though he said he supported me, he repayed me by acting out his build up frustrations every time we saw each other in a terrible way. The distance made me realize that it is not ok for your partner to get angry at you for being more successful and that lead to our break-up. So see what happens when you do decide to get that place of you own, and use his reaction to decide if he is the kind of partner that you need at this time of your life!

  41. Like others here, I’m not convinced that a codependent personality is the problem, but let’s go with the codependence scenario for a moment. From the pop psychology I’ve read about it, a codependent partner can’t get somebody to change by … trying to get them to change. The only way to make the needle jump the groove is to stop enabling them. He refuses to cook? Cool, he can fend for himself after you fix dinner for yourself. He refuses to help with moving plans? Move into your own place.

    He may not change even after you’ve stopped taking care of him—he’s still got his parents, after all. But in that case, at least you’ve already moved.

  42. Cyberwulf said:

    LW, find your own place and say nothing until you’re literally moving into it. Then say “I’m moving out/breaking up with you”.

    I don’t know whether you’re co-dependent or whether you’ve been taken in by how commonly and erroneously it’s thrown around. But I will say: when you meet Mr Ambitious and Driven, don’t let “I’m working 15 hours a day so I can make partner, and here are the three houses we can afford and are equidistant from our jobs, we’re looking at them this weekend” blind you to him expecting you to pick up all the chores at home because His Career. He has to do his share of the second shift, or else be willing to hire someone to do it.

  43. Please leave. It will be hard. It will be much harder to stay, even if inertia seems easier (it always does).

    You deserve to continue to kick all of the butts on your own without being held back. And if you meet someone who helps you do that (and makes your life better in other ways too), you can be with them if that’s what you want.

  44. Rhoda said:

    I’m inclined to think that the partner has discovered that he really wasn’t cut out to be a lawyer after all and is stuck in a sort of paralysis because he doesn’t know what he does want to do. Not that that is LW’s problem, of course, but the Captain’s advice is right on, it’s time to move on and leave him to solve his own problems.
    When LW does move out, she might want to look into things like a cleaning service to make life as a single even easier.

  45. Turquoise Dragon said:

    Two thoughts. First, the LW and the Commentariat might enjoy this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pgmx7z49OEk

    Second, my partner and I graduated college, and then he worked while putting himself through grad school, got his master’s degree, used it for a few years . . . . and then burnt out and is now a stay at home dad to our one year-old. I make the money, my career has skyrocketed, and honestly I do most of the planning for the family both in the short term and the long term. You know what I don’t do? Resent him for not keeping up with me. I am just fine with him staying home, caring for the baby, and doing much of the cooking and household chores. This works for us, and we’re both happy with the situation.
    Dear LW, you aren’t happy. That’s all you need to know to decide to end the relationship. There’s nothing wrong with the partner wanting to stay in his comfortable rut, but there’s also nothing wrong with you wanting something or someone different. Please don’t break your heart and waste your energy on this guy. He’ll be fine. And so will you. Leading separate lives.

    • B said:

      I agree, just chiming in to stress “ambition” can take different forms, doesn’t have to be career. Maybe “passion” would be a good word? “Energy”?
      My training has taken me all over the country, I sometimes have to work really long and/or weird hours, etc. I was with someone previously who I really liked but neither of us was willing to sacrifice career/training to stay with the other; as one phase ended we started long distance with no end in sight, eventually had to call it quits. Now I’m married to someone who was working full time and previously earned equal to me, was willing to give up/reset their career to facilitate my career moves and stay with me. At this point he has become a full time combination dad/domestic + pursuing a passion project in the arts (doesn’t pay anything but NGL I find it really cool! And I get to stay connected to the arts community despite giving up most of it myself). It makes sense at this point as I’ve finally gotten enough training that if I moonlight I can earn in an hour what he would earn in a day, and we are both happy with the arrangement. Some folks are in relationships where both are majorly career oriented, which also works for them but it looks REALLY DIFFERENT, usually they have to hire a lot of help at home, and scheduling anything is a bear. So anyway, just stressing that having different career ambitions worked really well for us, but the key is there is a lot of energy/ambition for other things. (Obvious differences that come to mind with my relationship compared with LW; when we had to move across the country to get to the next training level while I had to work, my husband did pretty much all the apartment hunting and traveling to make that happen, and did almost all the packing as well. So yeah, the fact that LW’s partner doesn’t seem to be showing effort ANYWHERE is a major red flag. And the fact that LW just doesn’t sound excited to be with them is the most important thing of all)

  46. purps said:

    LW, um, what if you, yourself have the authority to decide that you don’t love this? Like, maybe not the guy, I’m sure he’s great and his neck smells good, but the situation? Because it really really sounds like you don’t love this. This is not what love is, to you. This is what aggravation is, to you. It sounds like for you, from your point of view, this is… really a lot. It’s just a whole lot to deal with, and you don’t like it.

    I wonder if, like a lot of extremely high-achieving dedicated people, you have an image in your mind of how things could be, and you REALLY love that image. You’ve been extremely successful so far in a challenging career, and that says to me that you are used to putting in hard effort to achieve your goals. You try and you try and you try and you try and then things are different! Things are better! So when you have this idea of how this guy could be different, how your life together could be good! better! tolerable! I think maybe it’s really hard to let go of that image, because in other things in your life you’re capable of putting in the work and making things happen. I wonder if maybe your dedication, intelligence, and ambition are a hammer and you’re really frustrated that your relationship is not, in fact, a nail, when so many other things in your life have been nails! It’s really tempting to just keep hammering! You’ve spent so long hammering! Surely any minute now it’s going to work!

    I’m not accusing you of bad behavior. I also fall in love with how things COULD be if I JUST WORKED HARD ENOUGH. But first, this guy is not a nail. Not only is it immoral to make someone else actually do something – even something that’s good for them! – it is by and large an impossible project. People do what they’re going to do when they’re going to do it. Or don’t. You don’t have to make him do stuff, you can’t make him do stuff, you can certainly ask him to do stuff but if he then doesn’t – you actually can’t change that for him! It’s impossible! YOU ARE FREE. FLY FREE.

    And secondly – okay, I used to help manage this affordable-housing apartment complex, right, and one of the tenants pulled up the carpet for, um, reasons. I was at this point extremely young, and I was determined that instead of billing them for the damages I would just get all the carpet glue off the subfloor so that we could fix it. No conflict! No dangerous glue solvents! I would just work super hard at this and then there wouldn’t be a problem! (I was also receiving the same subsidy and was in a constant state of housing anxiety, which didn’t help – there was a general repair fund, but I was in a place in life and was scared to use it).

    … LW, I got about one-eighth of that floor cleaned off with steel wool and baking soda before someone very sweetly pointed out to me that this was excessive and I should stop. Even if I COULD put in enough effort to solve the problem, I SHOULDN’T, because it’s just… asking way too much of myself. It was putting my own well-being (in this case, the well-being of my knuckles) between someone and the consequences of actions they had freely undertaken, for themselves, without any kind of expectation that I would swoop in and saaaaave theemmm.

    That’s kind of a long rambling story, but my point is: even if you can fix something, even if it would work, sometimes you just… shouldn’t. Sometimes the cost to you is too high, and/or it’s just not your job. …Now when I get overly determined that I can just fix something myself one of my friends texts me and says “Purps! Set down the baking soda!”. It’s okay to have a stopping point. It’s okay to have a breaking point. It doesn’t mean you’re not a caring or competent person.

    Even if this guy (who is fine! he has a place to live! he keeps getting jobs!) wants your saving, it’s still okay for it to be too much, and for the cost to you to be too high. You get to just decide that. You get to look at your sunk costs as far as cooking and caring and money, and pushing, and just… set down the baking soda. Fixing his life is his job and you don’t have to do it.

    • Nicole G said:

      Gah.. I relate sooo much to ” I wonder if maybe your dedication, intelligence, and ambition are a hammer and you’re really frustrated that your relationship is not, in fact, a nail, when so many other things in your life have been nails! “

  47. Missy Vermillion said:

    I dated almost exactly the person you are dating – lawyer, fired/quit jobs, up too late, still living at home. We broke up over a decade ago, and he is still this person. Exactly this person. He has dated a string of women who love his potential, and now, in his mid-40’s, that is petering out and he is still this person. He will always be this person. I have changed cities, found a partner who is not ambitious but loves my ambition and supports me at home. Breaking up is hard. Staying would have been a disaster.

  48. Aveline said:

    He’s not going to change. If he wanted to change, he would have done so,

    He’s shown you who he is. Believe him.

    His intent, his dreams, his words do not vitiate his actions to date. They are truth.

  49. daremichaelson said:

    The Marie Kondo of breakups needs to be your new tagline immediately.

    • Audrey said:

      AMEN

  50. tammy said:

    I was in a marriage that was a lot like this. I stayed 14 years because it was hard to walk away. I walked away five years ago, and I’ve flourished so much. My ex always made me feel small and scared and like the limited tiny existence we had together running a barely viable consulting company with one client was the best I could ever aspire to. I found a job with a software company when I got divorced and now, 5 years later, I’m a Senior Manager with the trust and respect of my entire company and some great career opportunities on the horizon. (My boss even told me he thinks my career goals – a Director-level position soon, and an executive-level role in 5-7 years – are eminently attainable and he wants to help me attain them.)

    To the other stellar advice from the Captain and the commentariat, I’d add one other thing I’ve learned during the past five years: Loving someone means you don’t participate in their self-destruction. If he’s asking you to destroy your career ambitions to avoid wounding his ego, that’s not love. If he’s asking you to carry his lack of motivation at the expense of your own happiness, that’s not love.

  51. Audrey said:

    This is what happens when you’re ambitious and dating someone who is not. You’ll grow out of them. I’ve so been there and it really really sucks and I promise you it’s not worth it. It is an amazing feeling to be with a partner who is at your ambition level (or above! another reason to grow) and you’ll love it. I’m so excited for you to experience that!

    Also, living by yourself means you don’t have to be anyone’s mother.

    Captain, “Marie Kondo of breakups” OMG that’s so funny and so true!!!

  52. FrolickingElf said:

    As a fellow/former co-dependent struggling with doormat-people-pleaser behaviours, check out Lisa A. Ramano on YouTube, she is a Breakthrough Life Coach that “specializes in helping others heal from codependency, narcissistic abuse, emotional neglect, psychological invisibility, and alike.” I can’t recommend her enough to those of us struggling with codependency, and those who are “waiting for others” to rise up. Be that beautiful light, and soar!

  53. mf said:

    What happens when you want to remodel your house? Or travel more? Or have kids? Whose going to do all the work associated with those life changes? (Spoiler alert: you. He’s not going to life a finger.)

    This guy is not being a partner to you. He’s not pitching in, financially, physically, mentally, etc. You deserve someone who will give as much as he takes.

  54. anewleaf said:

    I found myself a better partner and a better parent when I sat with the narrative that behaviors that normalize dependence are not loving behaviors. You don’t love someone by doing all their adulting for them. You don’t love someone by not letting them learn from mistakes or feel a sense of self-determination about their life. Actually…. that’s kind of mean. It’s mean to coddle men like they can’t do for themselves. It’s mean to let them meander about as oblivious assholes. Be kind: call them shitheads who can make a meal like a normal adult.

  55. Prakriti said:

    This scene from Tangled is what I thought I of when I read the Captain’s advice: https://youtu.be/MJshj9SEO6A (Sorry for the poor vid quality.)

    Live your dream! You can do it!

  56. rhythla said:

    LW, I could have written this letter 2 years ago. For 6 years I dated a guy like yours, always hoping he would keep up with me then hoping he would catch up. I finally realized that I couldn’t change him and that he didn’t want to change, so I dumped him.

    I am much happier now, dating someone who challenges and complements me. Love is what I have now – not what I had with my unamibitous ex (who I was basically a mother to too).

    The break up gave my ex the kick in the butt he needed – now he is living in CA with a new girlfriend working for the company he always wanted to work for.

    Just go, LW. Live your life – you haven’t worked so hard to be held back by this guy.

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