Q: Dear Meredith,
My boyfriend of more than two years and I are going through a very difficult and odd time in our relationship. We had been together long-distance for nine months until I moved back to Boston in early summer. The first few months I was away passed without any drama or problems; we both missed each other and spoke nearly every day. But as more time passed, I started to reflect more on our relationship and compatibility. This guy makes me laugh without fail and loves me genuinely and deeply, yet we have grown to have too few interests in common and I see us moving in different directions.
In the winter I got the discussion going about the state of our relationship, but he had no interest in questioning whether we were meant to be together. He more or less convinced me that we should stick it out, and so we made it through our long-distance period, albeit with occasional disagreements and less frequent contact.
When I returned to Boston, I had already decided to break up with him in person. But when we reunited and I said this to him, he could not understand my perspective, calling me selfish and saying that if we just spend a few weeks or months together again like we used to, our relationship would happily revert to the way it once was. Halfheartedly I accepted this, and ever since, we have been seeing each other, but infrequently -- once every two weeks on average.
When we are together it's rather awkward because I am reluctant to even be there pretending we're still a real couple, and he senses my distanced behavior and doesn't know how to act. I can't go on like this, and after making some effort, I still do not want to go on in the relationship.
But at the same time my boyfriend is currently in between jobs. He's also not from the area so he has no friends or family here to serve as a support system if we break up. How can I end things with him once and for all if he doesn't understand my feelings and is without people close to him to help cope?
Should I hold off calling it the end for a while, until his life perhaps is more settled or until he can accept that our relationship is not working out? This would be an indefinite timeline, and while I do not want to hurt him, I feel like carrying on with this weird semi-relationship is making this worse and preventing us from making positive life changes.
– Distance Made the Heart Shrink, Boston
A: I can't think of a better time to break up with this guy, DMTHS.
He's between jobs, alone in the area, and should be putting himself first. If you set him free for good, he might decide that he doesn't want to live here anymore or that he wants to make a serious career change. You'll be giving him the opportunity to be selfish in all the right ways.
You've done your best to resuscitate this relationship and it's just not working. You're already down to once-a-week visits, so he's not even using you as a daily crutch. He's no dummy. He knows that this is over.
You just need to learn how to be an assertive breaker-upper. Tell him that it's over. Tell him that you just can't make it work. If he starts to negotiate, say, "I'm so sorry. I've made my decision. Let's talk about how we can move forward from here." Suggest that he call friends and family for support, even if they're far away. Repeat yourself until he gets it.
It'll be awful, but less awful than having to keep this alive for another few months. Please put this relationship out of its misery.
Readers? How do you break up with a good bargainer? How can she break up with someone who doesn't have a support system? Am I right to say that this is a good time to end things? Can you help her move this forward? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.