The 5 Year Break-up

26 Sep

Hi Dr Grit,

I have been splitting up with my boyfriend very slowly for the past 5 years. (I know. Don’t.) We’ve been together for a very very long time, and though we don’t actively hate each other, the love/passion/affection has slowly slipped away through a series of tiny resentful pinpricks, and now we are like very irritable flatmates. This year alone we have had four conversations in which he/I have admitted we have nothing in common anymore and have come to the end of the road. For me, the issues were: refusing to do anything about his appalling snoring that prevented me and possibly our neighbours from sleeping, refusing to go for the tests that might have revealed why we weren’t conceiving, letting me pay for everything while he pursued his artistically valid but lowpaid career, and generally being sad and angry all the time, yet refusing to talk to anyone to try to fix his low self esteem/control issues. I think he fell out of love with me because as a result of the above, I was pretty tetchy.

The problem is, we have these conversations, it’s upsetting for us both, but then he behaves as if nothing’s happened and carries on as normal. I really need to get a grip on this situation, as I’ve finally come to realise that while I’ve been trying to help him sort all these issues out, everyone I know has been marrying and having kids, and I’m about to run out of time, and am saddled with a huge snoring angry man child who will not seek help. I know. It’s my fault for letting him get away with it.

I think it comes down to the fact that a normal man would have moved out by now. I like to think I’m a nice person and I don’t want to kick him out onto the streets when I know he has no money. I’ve talked to a solicitor who has given me a rough figure that I should offer him (the house and all the assets are mine) but I don’t know where he’d go. He doesn’t get on with his ‘straight talking’ mother, or his distant father, and his friends are all having their own midlife crises (oh God, I’m painting an awful picture of him, he’s really a nice man, honestly). He’s the type to sink into a self-pity pit so I don’t want to give him a spade to dig it with.

And yes, I do know at the point he hits rock bottom, gets a grip, loses weight, fixes the snoring and deals with his career he will become amazing overnight and marry a 28 year old. While I utterly fail to meet anyone and end up being eaten by Alsatians, but at this point, it’s a risk I’m going to have to take. Basically, my friends have heard this tale of woe for so long that the insanity no longer strikes them, and they just say, Oh God, he’s a nightmare, you’re such a saint, you deserve better and NOTHING CHANGES. Typing it out, it sounds like madness.

I feel you might be more realistic. Go on. Tell me what to do.


PS funnily enough I’ve just started running and can more or less do 20 minutes. I am looking forward to it getting easier. At some point. Please

Dear Pink,

The 5 year break up. Grim, but nothing to be ashamed of. Many of us have been there as it is somehow almost always easier to stay in a shitty relationship than it is to leave! It is leaving a shitty relationship that takes courage and commitment. Thank God you are not married with a shared mortgage and children five years in! You could not be better placed to take this gritty plunge, and that is a huge bonus. The only thing that is stopping you is that you are seeing his life and his woe and his choices as YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. THEY ARE NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. We can only ever be responsible for ourselves and our own happiness. Nobody else’s. So your boyfriend has made some tough calls, gone the arty route and is skint and depressed. And you are picking up all the bills and feeling like you have got the moral high ground. You don’t. The only way you can genuinely help this man is to set him free, streets and all. He will not be destitute as you imagine, or go cold and hungry. He will be forced to actually find his balls and sort himself out for the first time in 5 years because you have been carrying him all this time and thus handicapping him from taking on that responsibility for himself. Look, I am not suggesting this is going to be easy, it will be painful for sure. But it has to be done. There is no love left between you, just anger and resentment on your part and probably the same on his.

Only he can work out what his next steps are. You work on what your’s will be. Without anger or blame or judgement try and have a really calm conversation in which you take responsibility for your side in it all, and say sorry, that you don’t love him anymore and that you want to move on and that he must move out by the weekend/x (v important to put a strict time-frame on it). Don’t blame him for all his shortcomings and all the grievances you have been storing up, that you paid all the bills etc etc because that is not his fault, but your’s. Let him go and sort his shit out for himself. I bet you one day he will thank you for it, and if he doesn’t I know you will thank me for it. Yes, he might end up with a hot 28 year old arty type who is a better match for him, just as you will meet the right man for you and with any luck you will both be happy with other people better suited to you….and trust me, you won’t give a shit in 6 months time.

The Grit Doctor says:

You are no more a saint than he is a sinner. You are just woefully ill-matched. The time has come to set yourselves free.


3 Responses to “The 5 Year Break-up”

  1. Karen Astill September 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I feel your pain! I was with a man for 5 years who I loved passionately but he had a drink problem which became more apparent the longer we were together. He even admitted (when he was drunk) that our relationship was over but that he was never going to be the one to finish it. I left him once then went back when he promised to change (he didn’t) so had to leave all over again a few months later. I felt a huge amount of anger about this cowardice for years and it eventually came out in a counselling session I had (for completely different issues) years later. My counselor pointed out that he had in actual fact finished the relationship by completely withdrawing himself from me and treating me badly. Before I actually walked out he had effectively removed himself from the relationship. I was lucky (didn’t feel like it at the time) because it was his house and I could leave. I did so with no money as I’d been keeping us afloat since all his money went on drink. I rebuilt my life and am now very happily married to a wonderful man. You won’t meet anyone else until this man is out of your life and he will probably thank you in years to come for giving him the kick up the bum he needed. Good luck – it will be hard but you’ll look back on it as the best decision you ever made. xx

  2. Sandra September 26, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    Had one of these drawn out break ups, they rot your insides, I physically felt sick ALL the time. Also tried to drag me down with his attitude, setbacks, issues……

    You are ready to kick it, you feel so amazing when you do, and it will feel like a weight has been lifted off you….a v expensive depressing one.

    Not your problem where he goes, just do it now, no more excuses, he could be gone by sat, and do not go back.

    Good luck!

  3. Jess September 27, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    Hi Pink, I have been in your shoes, only difference is I have a son (to a different father) and had to take his feelings into account as well. The other difference is my man worked hard and earned good money except he was terrrible with spending this money and kept us broke all the time. He expected me to be the little woman and do all the home chores including paying the bills, mowing lawns etc. It was so hard to make the move. I was having a conversation with him about where our relationship was heading and asked why he wasn’t happy and he answered – “I shouldn’t have to eat left overs, I know at least 10 guys who would have thrown the meal you served me against the wall for serving left overs!!” I snapped with that comment and I knew there was no turning back, if I accepted that he would walk all over me. So while I accepted him treating me like his housekeeper instead of his partner, you are accepting your guy treating you like his free ticket to life. Alarm bells ring when I here that a female is supporting the male (not if she just happens to have a higher paid job). I had the same dream as you that if I left, my guy would meet some amazing woman and became the guy I knew he could be cos I had seen glimpses of it – the fact is he is never going to turn into to this amazing guy with you. And there is a very massive chance that he will continue to be the tortured artist he is and in several months time you will be highly disgusted with yourself for not seeing this 5 years ago. I was worried my man would become amazing after I left but he just became more pathetic – he even tried online dating and got scammed, but thats a whole other story! Almost 2 years down the track I am still single but I am 10 times happier than I was with him, when I think about him now I can see ALL the things that were soooo wrong.

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