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Thread: How to minimize harm when breaking up with somebody dependent on you?

  1. #11
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    Does she have a job?
    She does have a job, she has worked there since she finished school at 18 years old. Decent pay and working hours thanks to her long service there. It is the only employment she knows and partly why she is absolutely terrified at the prospect of ever leaving the city she has grown up and lived in all her life.

    This woman is about 40 and you are treating her like a child. Why doesn't she seek a lawyer, who is more qualified?
    She lived at home with her sisters her entire life. Her elder sister made all her decisions for her until she got kicked of her own home for meeting me. She struggles to do anything by herself. She is not stupid, she is actually very perceptive and sharp, but she has low self esteem, calls herself stupid (I think her sister used to call her stupid, and she just accepted it) She feels incapable taking initiative, taking proactive action, making her own decisions and developing agency.

    To illustrate my point. At the very start of our relationship, I worked in a nearby city (in the UK) about 2hrs train journey away. The first time she visited me at the weekend was the first time she took the train by herself... Her first solo train journey at 37 years old!

    it's quite arrogant on your part to place such value and power in yourself that breaking up and not having you in her life will just destroy a 40 year old ADULT.
    Firstly, I suggest you get your own therapy to help you with your White Knight Syndrome. Then, once you realize how selfish that you enabling her is (to be the child that she appears to be) you will be able to sever the cord that attaches YOU to her.
    To be honest, I feel like some of this characterization is a little unfair. I admit that perhaps a part of me likes the safety that being needed provides and yes it does boost my ego to feel so loved/wanted by an attractive woman. But I have recognized from near the beginning that it was unhealthy, so I have told her to develop her own agency (she had to check the dictionary to see what it meant), become more independent, "love me, not need me" etc... I have repeatedly asked her to go see a counselor, but she has refused thus far.

    Mirror, where are you?
    Made my post in the evening, then had to make a few phone calls before bed.

  2. #12
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    It makes no sense to break up and allow a person to stay in your home. If you want to subsidize her rent and security somewhere else, fine, but breaking up before you're ready to cut the cord is messy and far more damaging to both of you than a clean break.
    If she lives in your home then you can give her the standard (in most places) 60 day vacate notice and by doing so,
    Just to clarify, I did not mean that she should continue to live with me if we break up. She currently lives in my house, but I am working thousands of miles away. I expect to go back to the UK (long term) next March, I would like her to have moved out by then. I do think it is unhealthy for us to live under the same roof.

    Does she pay rent?
    No. She still pays the mortgage on the house her sister kicked her out of. So it would be a strain on her finances. Besides when we were dating, it would seem kind of ridiculous to charge her rent for staying with me.

    The only scenario where I considered charging her money is when I had to clear out anther room of a lodger that stayed with me for over a year, because she did not want to share the house with a "stranger danger" (the guy was perfectly nice, just a little messy by our standards). That room is now empty and it cost me about £400/m in lost rental income.

  3. #13
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by MirrorKnight
    To be honest, I feel like some of this characterization is a little unfair. I admit that perhaps a part of me likes the safety that being needed provides and yes it does boost my ego to feel so loved/wanted by an attractive woman. But I have recognized from near the beginning that it was unhealthy, so I have told her to develop her own agency (she had to check the dictionary to see what it meant), become more independent, "love me, not need me" etc... I have repeatedly asked her to go see a counselor, but she has refused thus far.
    Since you pull no punches with others—and are a boon to this community for that—I'm going to take the gloves off here.

    This? I hope one day you can read that above paragraph and cringe, affectionately, at yourself. Patting your own back and defending yourself as a Normal Knight and not a White Knight because you encouraged a grown woman to develop her own agency? That is just more evidence of the very thing people are trying to get you to see. That is how you treat a child. Translation: "Will you please develop some more agency since the buzz of being your savior isn't so buzzy? So I can feel like a savior for teaching you what agency is? And, generally better, about being in a relationship I have known was unhealthy from the beginning?"

    You were asking her, in other words, to get you out of the trap you set by leaning into something you knew was unhealthy. If she had a level of agency that you admired and respected from the get go, you wouldn't have had to ask her to get it for you. But also? Maybe if she had that you wouldn't have been into leaning in. You weren't ready for that, because of that ego stuff you well-articulated yourself. Great. Time to own that story—the one that takes you down a few notches so her own humanity can have weight too. Newsflash: it weighs exactly the same as yours.

    She has agency. Everyone does. It's just not the shape and flavor for you, and that's okay. Your unhealthy stuff found her unhealthy stuff and put on a show. For a while it worked. Now it doesn't work, and the show needs to end. You will both survive, and thrive. Come up with a plan and execute it. Doesn't sound so complicated, really. She works, makes money, in a big city with all sorts of living options and people who aren't you to meet. She can find another White Knight, or decide she wants something else. That's her story, not yours to keep trying to tell even through ending your story together.

  4. #14
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    What do you think would have happened to her if she never met you? Would she have survived? Or been completely helpless and unable to live?

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  6. #15
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    Since you pull no punches with others—and are a boon to this community for that—I'm going to take the gloves off here.

    This? I hope one day you can read that above paragraph and cringe, affectionately, at yourself. Patting your own back and defending yourself as a Normal Knight and not a White Knight because you encouraged a grown woman to develop her own agency? That is just more evidence of the very thing people are trying to get you to see. That is how you treat a child. Translation: "Will you please develop some more agency since the buzz of being your savior isn't so buzzy? So I can feel like a savior for teaching you what agency is? And, generally better, about being in a relationship I have known was unhealthy from the beginning?"

    You were asking her, in other words, to get you out of the trap you set by leaning into something you knew was unhealthy. If she had a level of agency that you admired and respected from the get go, you wouldn't have had to ask her to get it for you. But also? Maybe if she had that you wouldn't have been into leaning in. You weren't ready for that, because of that ego stuff you well-articulated yourself. Great. Time to own that story—the one that takes you down a few notches so her own humanity can have weight too. Newsflash: it weighs exactly the same as yours.

    She has agency. Everyone does. It's just not the shape and flavor for you, and that's okay. Your unhealthy stuff found her unhealthy stuff and put on a show. For a while it worked. Now it doesn't work, and the show needs to end. You will both survive, and thrive. Come up with a plan and execute it. Doesn't sound so complicated, really. She works, makes money, in a big city with all sorts of living options and people who aren't you to meet. She can find another White Knight, or decide she wants something else. That's her story, not yours to keep trying to tell even through ending your story together.
    Thanks for your input @bluecastle Sincerely. I will reflect on this. You have made many good insightful posts lately, on my threads and on others. Apparently I cannot show my appreciation with rep points because I need to spread them out more.

    What do you think would have happened to her if she never met you? Would she have survived? Or been completely helpless and unable to live?
    To answer both of you @bluecastle and @boltnrun...

    I was drawn to Jane initially because of her kindness, warmth and femininity. I did not know about her neediness and insecurities at the very start because she was still "limpet'ed" onto her sisters. Living in the same bubble for 37 years. So the first major issue in our relationship was her lack of boundaries with regards to her family and her sisters' constant interference in our relationship.

    Like literally every time she spent an evening with me (she had to get home before midnight like a child), or a day out, her (elder) sister would throw a tantrum over some unrelated excuse, demand that she spends more time with her to make it up to her, and basically "focus on fixing our relationship before going out with your boyfriend again!". Without going into too much detail, her sister was abusive and controlling, but Jane had been so used to it that she thought it was normal. Her carefree happy-go-lucky life was over, she was confused, sad, stuck between trying to maintain her first relationship and trying to appease her sister(s).

    I nearly broke up with her around 3 months into our relationship over the above drama and unacceptable interference. Seeing that she was about to lose me, and encouraged by her close friends who could see the issues clearer than she could, she finally started to stand up to her sister and fight for our relationship. Her sister responded the only way she knew how. Escalation, and literal violence. I had to go to A&E with Jane after her sister threw a plate of food straight off the cooker at her, causing thankfully non-serious burns. After that Jane was too scared to go home unless she knew her sister was out, and she moved in with me.

    It was not until she got forcibly driven out of her home by her elder sister and moved in with me, when she limpet'ed onto me instead, that I realized just how clingy and co-dependent she was. At that point I felt responsible for her predicament, so I did my best to make our relationship work. That is when I guess the co-dependent phase of the relationship began. I guess you guys would say that in order for a relationship to be co-dependent, I had to have been at least somewhat co-dependent myself, and enabled her dependency. I accept that now, as much as I thought I was doing it for her, I guess a part of me wanted to be a white knight, and I find strong independent women (like Cathy that I previously described) a little scary, compared to "safe Jane".

    So to answer @boltnrun more directly, I think if she never met me, she probably would have stayed in her bubble forever and never realized that she was being controlled and abused. I genuinely think she did not mind, because she did not know any different, and it was comfortable. If she met anybody else, then she would have almost certainly come across the same issues... and as for the future, I do hope she can move on, gain agency and confidence, and find love again in a more balanced and healthy relationship.

  7. #16
    Bronze Member WaywardKiwi's Avatar
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    Hi Mirror,

    I followed your original thread and have read many of your opinions across a range of topics here. In general terms, I agree with the consensus here, and think bluecastle has articulated the issues far better than I could. However, I wanted to take some time to share an abridged version of my story, as there may be some parallels which may be illuminating in your own situation.

    I was in a 5 year relationship with a woman who had severe panic disorder. For the first year and a half, there were no signs and had just started living together. However, once symptoms started to present, she quickly went downhill. For the last 2 years of our relationship, she was essentially housebound at her parents house with severe agoraphobia; at times she was confined to a single room. She also was unable to be left alone, as she would have a severe panic attack if noone else was in the house. I took her to therapy, did the CBT exercises with her, did exposure. I planned my life around her illness. This caused understandable friction with her family and particularly mother (who was stay at home, but who also, having raised all her children to adulthood, was not keen on being housebound by proxy). This came to a head, and my partner ended up coming to my place of work daily and staying in the sick bay, where I would constant need to check on her. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing team and manager who allowed this. After about a year doing this, I ended the relationship.

    I was a white knight. Not just when the disorder presented, but before that too. I am sure, in retrospect, that my tendency to play the saviour, to try and teach her to be better for herself, to be both an example and a support, was a huge factor in her developing anxiety disorder. Then, I enabled her, even as she was receiving cognitive behaviour therapy. She leaned on me, and I allowed it, even as I ultimately began to resent her more and more for it. I felt trapped; I was convinced that if I left she would simply fall apart and regress. I was convinced that this woman needed me.

    Even at the end, when I intiated the break up, a large part of me wasn't sure she would make it without me. However, I also realised, she definitely wouldn't make it with me. I was part of the problem, not the solution. I had all the best intentions in the world, I truly cared for her and loved her, but I was not the one to 'save' her. And, in the process, I was only hurting myself and her.

    That all happened 4 years ago. She recently went to Canada, with her new beau. She is working, and thriving. She is grateful to me for all I did for her, and for leaving when I did. My broken bird healed the day I walked away and let her heal.

    I don't know how your story ends, but take it from me, sometimes no matter how good you are, no matter how much you care and try to do the right and best thing, you are in the way of the thing you want most for the people you love.

    Best of luck,

    T

  8. #17
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    Hi Mirror

    Been following your story as I go through my own relationship ups and downs.

    I'm just curious, very basic - What does Jane herself think about the state of your relationship, does she see or acknowledge for herself how codependant she has become with you?

  9. #18
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    I'm just curious, very basic - What does Jane herself think about the state of your relationship, does she see or acknowledge for herself how codependant she has become with you?
    @Beetie

    She recognizes that we are not happy together, but she thinks the solution is for me to go back to her asap.

    She never had agency because her (elder) sister made all decisions in their household after their father's stroke 15+ years ago. She never lived away from her family until she moved in with me. So I don't think she really understands what it means to be independent. She thinks she does not want it. She just wants me to take care of her forever. She does not want any responsibilities or have to make her own decisions.

    She accepts that she is a "limpet" - her own term for herself. She recognizes that she limpet'ed onto me after being forced off her sisters. I asked her what happens if I was gone, she said "limpets shrivel up and die without anything to stick to" ... which broke my heart. Though hopefully I am overestimating my own importance and underestimating her capacity to grow and move on. She has also mentioned (the last time I tried to break up with her in June) that "I will be very sad for long time, but I will move on" and I think she is mentally preparing herself for possible breakup. Yesterday she mentioned "I have not cried in the last two days, you should be getting worried", which implies she is emotionally learning to not miss me.

  10. #19
    Platinum Member itsallgrand's Avatar
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    She sees herself as a parasite , essentially?
    It's odd to me that does not repulse you.

  11. #20
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    Originally Posted by itsallgrand
    She sees herself as a parasite , essentially?
    It's odd to me that does not repulse you.
    No that implies she is a completely useless person. She is not.

    How do I explain this... She is used to living her life in a routine, before she met me, that routine barely changed for over a decade. She is perfectly functional and capable within that routine. She drives her own car, she earns decent money and held down the same job for nearly 20 years, she appears perfectly well adjusted in a social or professional context. She earned more than me for most of our relationship and her job is much more stable than mine.

    However, she does not proactively do anything and she finds anything out of the ordinary routine stressful. For example she gets panicky when her car breaks down, and she found the process of choosing and buying a new car, with its numerous options and considerations, too stressful, so I ended up doing the search with her (she does have her opinions and inputs of course), narrowing down the selection and ultimately making a decision. I went to the dealership with her for the test drive, negotiating the price etc... but she was perfectly able to deal with the paperwork and technical details herself, and of course paid with her own money. She just found the responsibility of what she feels is a big and complex decision, overwhelming.

    Another example, I booked some work to be done on my house. She does not want the work to be done when I am not there in person, because she does not want the responsibility of overseeing the work and okay'ing it.

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