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Serious Break Up Anxiety (Have to do the right thing, but frightened and sad)


awkpanda

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Over the course of the last few weeks, it became increasingly clear to me that my 5-year relationship is heading nowhere… and that I need to be the one to end it.

 

It’s not that I don’t love her anymore. We love each other, and need each other. In more ways than one, we only have each other right now**. However, our relationship is also deeply dysfunctional. There are fundamental differences we have failed to reconcile again and again. (That’s the gist of it – full account can be found here)

 

In short, there’s no future here. However, at this moment, as I’m contemplating all of this, I am deeply aware that I still love her, need her, and feel anxious about letting go. I’m dreading the talk, which will immediately hurt both of us, destroying the life we built for ourselves.

 

Part of this anxiety is inexperience. This is the end of my first longer relationship (5 years, living together, shared finances, residence visas etc.) To put this in perspective, my last two relationships were 2.5 years and 1 year, and both took place during my college years.

 

Right now, this relationship is my home, and my family. Ending it feels like stepping into an abyss. I don’t have anywhere to be. I’m afraid of being alone, locked away in some empty, strange flat day after day, with this awful virus preventing normal life. I’m also afraid of not having her around, to eat breakfast with, hug, hang out and also reassure me and love me – especially, when I’m anxious or sad (I’m dealing with long-term depression). Most importantly, as the one who will be initiating the break up, I seriously worry I may falter and try to get back together at some point, which would be the worst possible thing I could do to my partner.

 

I’m also sad about the petty things. I love my flat, how everything is arranged, love the view out the window, the neighborhood. After moving all over the world for many years, this is the first place, since I left my family home 12 years ago, that feels truly like a home – a place we created together with my partner only three years ago. It makes me so sad to blow it all up, leave it behind, start over.

 

And the dialogue in my head, which is already crumbling my resolve to do the right thing and end this is saying: “What if you don’t find anyone else that will love you as much as she does? What if this is the last real home you will ever have, or at least will have for a very long time… and what, you’re just willingly throwing it away? To be all alone? Maybe for many years?”

 

TLDR: I’m about to end my first adult relationship. I feel it’s the right move in the long-term. However, the short-term will likely be brutal for both me and my partner. Any advice or wisdom, from the more experienced, on how to deal with all of this? I’m really struggling.

 

*Please note: I’m not fishing for comments that will get me off the hook – that is, suggest a way out without breaking up. So, please don’t accuse me of that. I need to end this for both of our sakes, not just mine.

**Codependency (which I now recognize as a serious problem in itself) :icon_sad:

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Did you have a discussion about boundaries and her extreme obsessive jealousy after the most recent incident?

 

Yes, we have. But predictably it didn't break any new ground. We had many similar conversations over the years.

 

Perhaps only new addition was some of the stuff I learned about myself here on enotalone. I was also more direct. I said that: "I feel that my boundaries are not being respected. While I do my best to respect your boundaries, as agreed by both of us, the boundaries I ask for are never upheld for long." I also admitted that this is ultimately my fault (establishing this pattern), because I willingly tolerated my boundaries being broken, as there were no real consequences.

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Don't break up right now if you can't handle it mentally emotionally or financially. However start preparing financially so you can afford the place on your own. Have you told her you do not want marriage or kids the way she does? When the time is right you can have the "we have different goals" talk.

 

She will eventually leave because she is not happy with you or the fact that she is 29 wants family, marriage, etc.. Don't fret it will all work out. She will leave and as long as you arrange your finances, you'll be fine. The throes of a pandemic is not a good time to make drastic changes, however it has probably brought all the issues and incompatibilities to light.

 

When you are able to handle ending things use a "It's me, not you" approach rather than blaming her "insecurities" to have an excuse to string her along so you don't have to face being alone. That is just creating a lot of unnecessary strife.

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If you are afraid of losing her more than the impact it will have in your life (empty home, will you find someone), then ask for some space for now.

 

Usually distance puts people in perspective. I understand there might not be an option of places to go due to COVID19, but put this as an option right now. Cases like this, she needs to help herself not a partnership effort. Please be well.

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Feeling for you.

 

Wish I could say my experience in navigating these swamps has given me a map that I can now send your way, but I just don't think it works that way. What I will say is that I have never met anyone who has ended a relationship they knew needed to end, and not come out, when the smoke clears, in a better head-, heart-, and lifespace. Ditto for those who did not choose to end it, including myself.

 

One thing that has helped me, when it's been me ending the relationship? It has been doing everything, to the best of my ability, to see about addressing the issues—together, within—before pressing the red button. Once I've done that with no progress, when the dysfunction is clearly only metastasizing rather than being reduced, I kind of accept the limitations as bigger than me, bigger than us. Makes the choice feel, if never quite "right," at least clear.

 

It is an abyss, really, and it's not easy. Unknowns, uncertainty, uncomfortable feelings: these are not things the human spirit is built to take refuge in, but they are things the human spirit can handle, often with more grace than we know. That's one of those lessons that exists on fortune cookies, at least until you live them. But as you go about all this, even just the thinking about it? Maybe try to remind yourself of that, even if it feels a little false. Like anything, you spend a bit of time in that abyss and it starts taking on a different, less intimidating shape, one that eventually becomes you, rather than a void.

 

As for the dialogue in your head? I think those thoughts are mandatory. One need only to look around at the history of humanity, however, to see that people are always connecting to new people, often forming new connections that function at a higher, more sustainable level than past connections. That's just a fact, and so, as a fellow human, the odds are much greater that that would be your story, rather than you being an exception to the rule. Not sure if that helps, but I've always liked thinking in those terms.

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Don't break up right now if you can't handle it mentally emotionally or financially.

We are both fortunate in that finances are not an issue for either one. As for my emotional state, while this is a real concern for me, I feel it's not a morally acceptable reason to hold onto her... especially, now that I have pretty much arrived at a decision.

 

Have you told her you do not want marriage or kids the way she does? When the time is right you can have the "we have different goals" talk.

To be clear, that's not really our issue. We both do not want kids (her being the far more adamant one). We both want to eventually get married. Our problem is that I am unable to commit given our fundamental differences, she is also aware of this. This created an impasse, we could never find a way to square that circle.

 

When you are able to handle ending things use a "It's me, not you" approach rather than blaming her "insecurities" to have an excuse to string her along so you don't have to face being alone. That is just creating a lot of unnecessary strife.

Definitely will do my best not to do any finger pointing. I'm hoping that I can find a way to end it gently – with love and respect I have for her, despite our differences.

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One thing that has helped me, when it's been me ending the relationship? It has been doing everything, to the best of my ability, to see about addressing the issues—together, within—before pressing the red button.

I worry that as soon as we get to that point, she will say what I want to hear, and promise what she feels will convince me to stay. Promises she will likely not keep (at least, that’s where we were before after I was close to leaving). What do you think I should do in that case? I’m sure I will be tempted to trust her, despite our history, only to avoid pressing that red button.

 

What I will say is that I have never met anyone who has ended a relationship they knew needed to end, and not come out, when the smoke clears, in a better head-, heart-, and lifespace. Ditto for those who did not choose to end it, including myself. […] It is an abyss, really, and it's not easy. Unknowns, uncertainty, uncomfortable feelings: these are not things the human spirit is built to take refuge in, but they are things the human spirit can handle, often with more grace than we know. […] Like anything, you spend a bit of time in that abyss and it starts taking on a different, less intimidating shape, one that eventually becomes you, rather than a void.

 

As for the dialogue in your head? I think those thoughts are mandatory. One need only to look around at the history of humanity, however, to see that people are always connecting to new people, often forming new connections that function at a higher, more sustainable level than past connections. That's just a fact, and so, as a fellow human, the odds are much greater that that would be your story, rather than you being an exception to the rule. Not sure if that helps, but I've always liked thinking in those terms.

Thank you for writing all of this out, it’s really reassuring. I guess step one is simply accepting what’s ahead, even if the outlook is bleak.

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I worry that as soon as we get to that point, she will say what I want to hear, and promise what she feels will convince me to stay. Promises she will likely not keep (at least, that’s where we were before after I was close to leaving). What do you think I should do in that case? I’m sure I will be tempted to trust her, despite our history, only to avoid pressing that red button.

I suppose it depends on what it is you are asking of her?

Change is not impossible and it can happen to varying degrees.

I guess if you thought there were a chance, you wouldn't have come to this decision.

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I worry that as soon as we get to that point, she will say what I want to hear, and promise what she feels will convince me to stay. Promises she will likely not keep (at least, that’s where we were before after I was close to leaving). What do you think I should do in that case? I’m sure I will be tempted to trust her, despite our history, only to avoid pressing that red button.

 

The hypothetical you just outlined? It is, best I can tell, exactly what you are over, or at least recognizing as toxic and unworkable, and no longer able to commit your life to engaging in. As such, at least once you're surefooted in your conviction, that sort of response is just more assurance that you're making the right choice.

 

Can only speak for myself, but in the instances when I've ended the relationship? I am announcing a fact, not introducing a theory to be discussed or challenged. You might not quite be there yet, which is totally okay, but when and if you do take these steps? That's ideally what it is: the end of the conversation, not an opening for a new one.

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I guess if you thought there were a chance, you wouldn't have come to this decision.

In general I tend to be a very hopeful person when it comes to personal change. I'm a strong believer in personal growth. I'm always trying to change (for the better). That's just how I'm wired.

 

I think that character trait, along with my desire to somehow make our relationship function, led me to be far too hopeful about the possibility of her changing. You cold say I was blinded by it. Worse yet, I realized my hope was not only naive but also quite condescending. Maybe she doesn't want to change. Maybe she doesn't need to change (for my benefit).

 

Short answer: I don't think she will change. But I would very much like to believe it :(

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Can only speak for myself, but in the instances when I've ended the relationship? I am announcing a fact, not introducing a theory to be discussed or challenged. You might not quite be there yet, which is totally okay, but when and if you do take these steps? That's ideally what it is: the end of the conversation, not an opening for a new one.

 

I think you are right. Breaking up is not a bargaining chip. This wasn't my intention last time I was ready to leave, but now that I look back on it, that's exactly what it ended up being. This time I'll keep that in mind.

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There's no easy way to break up but it's clearly obvious that your relationship is not working, according to you. That said, try to remember that breaking up is the right thing to do at this point and, therefore, you should not feel guilty (I know this is hard to do). You cannot fit a square peg into a round hole. That simple. Not all relationships are meant to be. Fact of life...

 

I am sorry that you are feeling so stressed but you're just going to have to accept that it's going to be painful. Don't fall for this: "I worry that as soon as we get to that point, she will say what I want to hear, and promise what she feels will convince me to stay. Promises she will likely not keep." You've made your decision, and so you need to make your point that the relationship is not a good fit. When you talk to her tell her the truth, tell her how you feel without adding blame or accusations. Chances are that if it's not a good fit for you, it's not a good fit for her either. She may not be as aware of it just yet, as you are.

 

Of course, the breakup will be painful at first. But, with time, the pain/guilt/heartache will get better. And, you will feel better about your decision. No point in prolonging the inevitable. It's scary but most of us go through a breakup with someone that we love or care about, at some point of another. You will survive, I assure you. Be strong.

 

Oh, one more thing: give yourself some time to think about what you are going to say before saying it. Perhaps you should write it out. Doing this will keep you on track, and help you to not lose your train of thought. You can do it!

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Breakups are never easy. You're just going to have to be brutally honest, get it over and done with. Be prepared for tears, shouting, yelling, emotional outbursts, perhaps being called every name in the book and heated arguments. It's par for the course or part of the process.

 

Then both of you will require lots of time afterwards for healing and eventual recovery.

 

I'm sorry for both of you. Hope that one day this will all be behind you and her.

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It doesn't have to be so complicated...say "I'm done, we are over because I'm no longer happy and I don't want to continue...goodbye..." walk away.

I guess for me the complicated part is leaving my entire life behind – and that includes giving up on a lot that's actually pretty great.

I know leaving is the right choice for us in the long-term, but I dread the immediate consequences. It's the anticipation of loss I'm feeling (including losing her love and companionship as well as the place I call home).

 

Maybe that makes me a "coward" or "weak," but it is what it is.

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I guess for me the complicated part is leaving my entire life behind – and that includes giving up on a lot that's actually pretty great.

I know leaving is the right choice for us in the long-term, but I dread the immediate consequences. It's the anticipation of loss I'm feeling (including losing her love and companionship as well as the place I call home).

 

Maybe that makes me a "coward" or "weak," but it is what it is.

 

No, that makes you normal. You should be concerned if you weren't feeling the things you are.

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No, that makes you normal. You should be concerned if you weren't feeling the things you are.

 

Agreed.

 

Even when we know it's right, letting go of comforts, to say nothing of hopes, is never easy. It's hard to leave jobs we know are corrosive to our spirits, because paychecks are nice, along with a sense of purpose. Ditto opting to move to a new city, because the one you're living in doesn't offer what you need for full-spectrum nourishment. Breakups are kind of a version of that, with all the feelings magnified.

 

But if fear of pain—feeling it, causing it—is the most powerful bonding point? Just me, but I know that's not in line with who I want to be inside the one life I get to live, something I've had to remind myself of here and there, when I've been in similar shoes as you're in.

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Honestly I see the easiest way out of this with lessened guilt on your part as “we need to part ways and you need to get therapy for me to even consider a reconciliation in the future” if you know she is so anti therapy then it’s essentially a shoo-in and if she does agree to therapy maybe you guys can reconnect later down the road. I also am slightly jealous with new boyfriends (I have been cheated on in the past) but as I learn to trust someone that feeling eventually dissipates or I wouldn’t be with the person anymore. Why would you remain with someone you don’t trust?

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