Adapted from a recent online discussion.
They're living together, but she's unhappy and is seeking change
Taking a break vs. breaking up: I've been living with my boyfriend for eight months. Most of the time things have been good, but stresses outside the relationship have really bombarded us: finishing grad school, job searching, health issues and family stress.
My boyfriend and I deal with stress very differently: I find outside activities to let off steam, and he gets overwhelmed. I've decided I need some time alone to figure out my life (I'm looking for a new job and he has not been supportive), and so I plan to move out.
I haven't talked to him about this, since I do want to articulate that, yes, I still want to see him, but I need to also live alone during this difficult period.
Am I being unfair to him? Should I nix the idea of moving out? I've been unhappy living with him for several months now, but I don't know that I've tried literally everything to be happy with him, although our different approaches to stress really concern me. Sometimes, really, I just wish I didn't have the added pressure of a relationship.
Carolyn: Why do you want to keep seeing him, vs. break up?
Re: Taking a break
Anonymous: It sounds like she wants to exit the relationship in stages. If she knows it's over, then she needs to summon up the courage.
Carolyn: That's what it sounded like to me. Not respecting the way your mate handles stress is a sound deal-breaker: He's not likely to change overnight (or at all, unless he's receptive to change), and one of the main reasons for pairing off in life is to help manage stress.
Anonymous 2: Keep living with the guy, and do your best to face the problem head-on. This will tell you for sure that it's not fixable and breaking up is the right thing to do. Or he could change, which would be great. But if he doesn't, you can't just try to excise this one thing from his character and keep the rest of him, which is what it sounds like you're trying to do.
Carolyn: No argument here, though she needs to be careful not to cross the line into stalling.
Taking a break, again: I honestly don't know why or if I want to keep seeing him, which is probably saying something. I know he takes rejection badly and has said he always is the one to end relationships. Just this morning, I had to help him get ready for a job interview because he's so on edge about being rejected by a potential employer.
He's over 30, and I find it frustrating that he needs so much support — support that I don't feel like I get from him in similar, stressful situations.
The writer who pointed out that I want to break up in "stages" is right to some degree. I think it would be easier for HIM if it were in stages. I have already made plans to live with some friends. Again, am I being a jerk?
Carolyn: You've thought and planned. The non-jerk move now is to speak to him with care and honesty, weigh his response, then follow your convictions from there.