I have been dating my boyfriend for 6 years. About a month ago I told him I wanted to move out. I have felt like for 6 years I have spent my time and energy devoted to him and not me. He is disabled so he doesnt work, so when I get home it’s like if I don’t give him all my attention he gets upset.He is an acholoic and addictied to pain pills so he is that much worse in the evenings. If I go out with friends or when I leave for my night classes he gets all sad and upset because he says he is so lonely. He tells me he gave up all his friends for me. (Not true, his friends are drug addict’s and it was me or them)So much of the time I feel obligated to stay home and be there so he wont be lonely. We have never really been alot alike. We are 8 years apart in age. He was 28 and I was 20 when we started dating. He is a momma’s boy my parents are divorced and live 2000 miles away. I have worked since I was 15 he has worked here and there till he got disabled. I graduated from highschool and I am in college now, he never graduated high school. I love people and traveling he has social anxiety. I use to think I could help him, I thought if I loved him enough I could help him be a more outgoing, people person who wanted to quit letting the world pass him by. But what has really happened is I have because more closed up to people, instead of me rubbing off on him he rubbed off on me. I reliezed no matter how much I loved him after 6 years he was not gonna change. Then after I told him I wanted out, he asked me not too and some of his habits did start to get better, he started giving me my space and really started trying to make things better. Ok, but here comes the problem, I still dont know if I want to stay, I don’t trust that it is going to get better, it has already gotten so bad how can it? But I cant bring myself to leave I dont know what Im afraid of. I never wanted to hurt him I know he is a real fraigle person but I cant stand putting myself aside any more. I have spent nearly all my twenties trying to make this work. I am sad all the time, when I take showers my hair falls out in clumps, I dont want to go anywhere or be around anybody. I just dont know what to do. I am too scared to leave and too heartbroken to stay. I feel like I am going crazy.
I can understand why you are feeling confused. You are dealing with a complicated set of issues. Ethically, I cannot make a choice for you (i.e., whether to end the relationship) but I can provide some guidance and an objective opinion.
There are several understandable reasons why you may fear leaving this relationship. One, as you said, is that you don’t want to hurt him. You realize that ending the relationship will be very difficult for him. He will likely suffer. That guilt probably stops you from ending it.
A second reason why you may not want to leave is the fear of being alone. There is an idiom that seems appropriate here: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” What this means, in the context of relationships, is that many people would rather stay in their current situation with the known unhappiness than enter into a new lifestyle with the unknown unhappiness that it may bring. Also, for some, the thought of being alone is frightening.
Neither guilt nor having a fear of loneliness is a healthy reason to stay in a relationship.
Two other complicating factors are that he is disabled and he is addicted to drugs. You might erroneously feel guilty for ending a relationship with a person who is so disadvantaged. If so, please don’t. He may have problems but he is capable of making the changes that you have asked of him. He is a partner in the relationship and there are problems with his behavior. As you have pointed out, he could make many positive changes that would greatly enhance the quality of his life and of the relationship but he chooses not to. You have given him ample opportunity to make the necessary changes but he has not done so.
His drug addiction is another major issue in the relationship. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone addicted to drugs. There may be happy moments throughout the course of the relationship but for all practical purposes, drug addiction ruins relationships. In addition, by not addressing his drug addiction you may inadvertently be supporting it.
You seem to have made legitimate attempts to improve the relationship. But even in light of some positive changes on his part, you are still unhappy. My belief is that you know that it is over but fear and guilt are preventing you from ending the relationship. In my experience people who stay for these reasons often feel resentment toward their partner. It is not healthy for you nor is it fair to your partner.
If you continue to struggle with how to handle this situation, consider consulting a therapist. A therapist could provide informed guidance and help to clarify your thinking. The find help tab at the top of this page can help you locate mental health resources in your community. Please consider writing back to let me know how you are doing. I wish you the best. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle