Agony Aunt advice – Should I stay or should I go?

10 Oct

I received this question in my e-mail from a girl who regularly reads my blog and thought if I pinned it up here it might help others who could be in this situation. She didn’t mind if I pinned it up and since its been an absolute age since I wrote my dating advice bit on my blog here goes…

Anonymous writes:

Q: I’ve been in a relationship with a guy for five years now, and have wanted to end it for perhaps the last 12 months. But I feel trapped.

I think my boyfriend is depressed. He sends me texts when he is drunk that make me worry about him, just stuff like he has no friends, no confidence, and never has a good night out without me. If we do head out for the night he just talks to me.

Even after five years, I barely know his friends. Professionally he’s stuck too, lacking self-confidence and dodging projects whenever he can. And again, I’m the only one he talks to about all this.

I love him and he’s my best friend. I want to be there for him, but not as a girlfriend. It’s not that I want another boyfriend. I just want some time by myself. I don’t want to constantly feel bad if I head out with the girls, or go home for the weekend.

I don’t want a relationship any more and this is quite independent of my boyfriend’s problems.

My fear of his loneliness and lack of confidence makes me reluctant to break his heart. And it will break his heart, because he tells me so. He also tells me to break it off if I’m unhappy, but he thinks it’s all to do with me wanting another boyfriend.

I want to travel, to do girly things, to live by myself and feel free. As things stand, I feel I can’t do any of these things. To avoid rows and hurt feelings, I turn down opportunities to do simple things such as seeing my friends.

I feel terrible that this is the way I see things, and I know I should tell my boyfriend. But I worry about what will happen to him.

I feel my life is passing me by. I also get dejected and upset quite frequently. I feel trapped.

A: Dear Anonymous, I hate to sound severe in my response to you but I feel I am going to have to as its quite clear from your mail that you are not happy with him. Of course you want another boyfriend. Sure, you haven’t got one lined up right now cos you still harbour residual feelings for him so you hang on in there hoping things will get better. And no, perhaps not another man, per se, is not the REAL reason you want out of your relationship. But let’s be clear here. You want a life. You want that life back – you feel your time is going to waste because your primary needs are not currently being met and that is because your bf is not in a position to help you ascertain those needs. Part of that life is love, marriage and children. So yes, you want someone else, sometime.

The reason I’m harping on this is to demolish guilt. At the moment you feel guilty — which is why you’re hanging in there. Your boyfriend knows this. He may be depressed but he’s not an idiot. He sees the truth. It’s guilt that binds you to him. He also knows that you want a life. You want out. He’s just not strong enough to send you on your way even though he knows there’s no self-respect possible in the status quo. Why? cos he is annoyed at himself for letting his own life go downhill but what he must realise is that its up to HIM to fix his situation – and its up to him to help himself and even though you can tell him all that and bring the horse to the water – you sadly can’t make him drink the water unless he wants to drink it. Just as you’re not strong enough to admit the truth to him, well not openly anyway cos a part of you hopes that the relationship will work out in the end and that he will overcome his problems. So instead he’s inviting you to leave, but in such a way that makes it difficult for you. And you’re pretending you just want to do girly things. Do you really want to do girly things? (or has he become gradually a bit more distant with you due to his depression?)

But that’s what we do in relationships. We try to get off the hook, while at the same time refusing to let the other person off the hook. Courage is just so hard, so we dodge it instead. The sad part is that in the process we are destructive, rather than kind. Your boyfriend is clearly depressed and dependent. Those two go intimately hand in hand. In mopping up his distress, you reinforce his dependency or worse his co-dependency. Certainly you mean well. But you are doing him no favours. Because it’s not him you are actually indulging. It is yourself. You don’t want to feel guilty. So you stay with him. You prob stay with him cos you love him too – 5 years is a long time, but things are so stale you are now clutching at whatever straws remain.

What’s so wrong with walking out on him? Has your presence brought any discernable change in his situation? Is it not at least possible that the crutch you provide has hindered him from doing something about his own distress? Could it even be that he remains so dependent because he feels, not without reason, that this is the best way to keep you hanging in there? He says that you leaving would break his heart. But maybe his heart needs breaking. We have to leave our comfort zone in order to heal. Sometimes the crutch has to go before we can change and change for the better.

It is, of course, manipulation on your boyfriend’s part to say his heart will be broken if you go. But just so you know, manipulation is not a dirty word. It’s what we all do, all the time, with everybody. We wind and weave. It’s called social intercourse, communicating, making life work. It’s his way of trying to get what he wants — maybe not what’s best for him, but what he wants. It’s your responsibility to make sure his words don’t deflect you from the truth, don’t trap you, to use your own phrase. That means facing your own weakness, which is the strong desire to be seen as good, and your faulty belief system that you are responsible for your boyfriend’s happiness. You are not. You are only responsible for your own happiness. Said differently, it’s your failure to face the fact that you are part of the problem. The crutch is always co-responsible.

Look, you are both trapped. And in terms of solving the problem you’re ahead, if nothing else because you bothered to ask for advice. Stop pussy-footing around. Stop trying to remain in your comfort zone by trying to insist that you stay close as a friend. Say goodbye. If he shows that he has fixed his own predicament and happiness in the meantime then its up to you whether you should take him back or not. I am sorry if this is not what you want to hear but you asked for advice, so from a safe emotional distance, you can give it too. Be a real friend to him. But go live your life and if you want back with each other that will happen anyway. After all, if it ain’t broke — it can’t be fixed and if its meant to be – it will be mended with time. My intention is not to upset you but just to say think about what I have said here and hopefully it will put things into perspective. If you have been thinking about breaking up for 12 months then you are being unfair to him by staying. What you do is upto you so you can take what I say or leave it – the choice is yours. I wish you both the best of luck in whatever you do decide to do in the end.

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One Response to “Agony Aunt advice – Should I stay or should I go?”

  1. Vladyghost 10/10/2010 at 11:28 am #

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