Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dismaying Story #109: Mr. Indecisive

Dear Andrew,

I am currently in a relationship with my girlfriend of about 18 months, however we've known each other and have been involved off and on for the last 12 years. All this time she has always wanted to be in a committed serious relationship and I resisted, meanwhile getting into those very same type relationships with other women. For some reason I just never thought it'd work out or that we were compatible. We would see each other for a couple months at a time before one of us would say or do something to anger the other and we wouldn't speak for months. We followed this same routine for 12 years (not including when someone was in a relationship).

Eventually I decided to do what I felt everyone (friends and family on both sides) felt like I should do, which was "be" with her. Admittedly, allowing what others thought was right to influence me was the wrong thing to do. But I really do love her and I felt like that was enough. Well, immediately into the relationship, the issues began to arise. We fight regularly over simple matters that I attribute to us being and thinking so differently on EVERYTHING.

After about a year we decided to try living together. She moved into my house and this was a much easier transition than either of us expected. But I had hoped it would help our relationship and it hasn't. Basically, my way of coping with the constant conflict between us is to shut down and just try not to incite anything. The only way I could do this was to keep interaction to a minimum, which of course was detrimental in its own way. I started to feel like I was unable to be myself around my own girlfriend for fear that a fight would break out over something I'd done or said without realizing it.

I made an emotional connection with another woman, which my girlfriend found out about. She considers this cheating and I've always known her stand on emotional/physical cheating. It's all cheating. So now, she is waiting for me to make a decision on whether or not I feel that the relationship is worth working on. She says I've never given her the opportunity to "fix" our problems because I wasn't communicating with her but instead, I was shutting down, avoiding the issues (she's in school for her doctorate in psychology also).

She has always said I should not feel obligated to her, that I should only try to save the relationship if I really believe it can work. The problem is I don’t believe it can work but I'll always feel obligated to make her happy after so many years of disappointing and hurting her. I don't know that I'm willing to hurt her one last time.

Unfortunately, I feel the damage has been done and I'm not sure I can be happy in this situation anymore. However, I also know how miserable I will be if she leaves. I'm well aware that if she leaves, chances are, I'd never see her again. She's made it very clear that it would be almost impossible for her to forgive me.

Am I just afraid to tell her that I think it's too late to fix the relationship or am I afraid of how serious this relationship is and will be?

Signed Mr. Indecisive

Dear Mr. Indecisive,

Your letter says in several ways that you don’t want to be with her. “I never thought it would work out. I thought we weren’t compatible. I’m not sure I can be happy with her. I don’t believe it can work. It’s too late to fix things.”

Okay, I’ve got it -- despite your longstanding friendship with her, you don’t think this is a good relationship for you.

So what makes you think staying with her would be such a good deal for her? Why would you let your friend invest her time and emotional energy into a guy who doesn’t believe she is the most amazing partner ever? Why would you allow her to sell herself short like that? You said it yourself -- you are not participating fully in the relationship, which means she is getting a raw deal.

Maybe you could change. Maybe you could get serious and give this gal your all. That’s a nice idea but it seems to me you already tried that when the relationship first started. It didn’t work. The disagreements and disconnect started immediately.

What will likely happen if you hang on? My prediction is the turmoil will continue; your history shows this is highly probable. You will continue to feel trapped and dissatisfied. She will continue to sense your obvious discomfort, which means she will also be dissatisfied. Eventually one or the other of you will be so tired of the same old pattern that the relationship will end, but only after prolonging the dysfunction for a while.

You said you feel obligated to make her happy. Trust me; that’s not what you are doing by hanging on.

You should do her a favor and end it now. This may be a difficult message in the short-term, but it is a much more painful situation if you keep her in a doomed relationship for longer than you have to. The sooner you release her, the sooner she can find a guy who will be truly into her.

I wish both of you all the best in working this out.

With warm regards,


  1. Indecisive,
    It is cruel to her to stay thinking you won't hurt her even more in the long run...
    If your heart isn't in it, obligation isn't enough...
    It may be painful on both sides to change what has become familiar and say 'we are done'...
    But at least if you leave this knowing of your incompatibilitires, she has a chance then to meet someone who could care for her and KNOW it...
    And maybe she can find healing and love that you can not offer her...

  2. Andrew is correct. Time to end it. This is the right thing to do for both of you. When you end it this time, make it final, do not leave the door open for another opportunity with her. This is a toxic relationship for both of you. I am sure that both of you realize this. The inital pain and guilt that you fear you will feel will be well worth the long term gain of living a sane life.