Woe Is Me! “My Boyfriend Wants to Marry; I Don’t. Leaving Will Shatter Him. What Do I Do?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I have a marvelous man — he’s my first boyfriend. But, his future plans entail marriage and mine do not. He’s talented but isn’t making much currently. Leaving him will shatter him and will possibly bring back the trauma of his last five-year-long-relationship ending in a traumatic breakup, something he still struggles with. That’s the worst thing I could wish upon someone I wish better for. And I can’t figure out any other way for me to move forward while growing, than being apart from him. What do I do?”
— Biwi Number None
PP: You already know what to do; your last line tells me that. So all there’s left to do is find the strength to walk away from this man. I know he’ll hurt, as will you, but both of you will hurt a lot more in the future when he finds out you are with him out of pity/concern and not because he’s the most beautiful man in the room to you, or when you end up married to him — because it’s only going to get harder to get out from this point. Besides, now that you have articulated the problem, staying in the relationship would be inauthentic. He deserves to be with someone who wants to marry him; you deserve to be with someone who has the same views about relationships. So: Take him to a public place (break up in person, PLEASE); be very honest with him about how marriage is just not something you want with anyone, not just him; and, DO NOT offer to help him mourn the end of the relationship (because that’s a slippery slope, and you need to wean yourself away from being his Emotion Manager). Set some boundaries after the breakup, take some time off from contacting him, and no matter what happens – DO NOT HOOK UP with him after. P.S.: You can’t just put everyone else’s trauma and feelings before yours all the time, and think that counts as love. It doesn’t.
ADT: If you care for this person and wish the best for them, then stop walking on eggshells around them and make your point to him clearly. Think of it this way, the quicker you leave him, the less time you both waste on a failing relationship. He’ll definitely hurt, but he’ll get over it sooner and maybe even respect you for doing this. You’re a good egg for worrying about his feelings, but don’t let not wanting to be the bad guy keep you from doing the right thing. Also, as PP cautioned, NO HOOKING UP after.
RD: Whoa, whoa — I either don’t have full context or I 100% disagree breaking up immediately is the right way to go. You say he’s marvelous, but that you can’t be with him because he’s planning a future in which marriage is involved. I think that problem can be overcome with persistent, effective communication, IF and only IF you are willing to put in the work. My personal opinions about marriage aside (it’s an unfeminist and completely unnecessary institution), why don’t you want to get married? Why does he want this for himself? I think breaking down why both of you have come at this crossroads can signal to you if it’s time to move forward. Does his idea of marriage involve relationship security, or does it mean making you marry his family and isolating you in the home and all the other regressive stuff that comes with marriage? If it’s a matter of him feeling secure in your relationship, there are other ways to make him so — which will also involve breaking down why he’s feeling insecure in the first place. How he reacts after the breakup is not something you can control, no matter what you do, so definitely, in the end, do what’s best for you. Put your needs before his needs. But I’m not sure him wanting marriage and you not is the tipping point here. Communicate, reason your opinions and desires out with each other, and then take a call. You will know one way or another after that discussion. If he’s a good partner, he will entertain your thoughts. If he doesn’t, you know what to do.
LG: Look, you seem like you have one foot out the door, which is fine, but it’s not fair to him to linger in the doorway, half-in-half-out. If you’re positive he’s getting in the way of your personal growth, and marriage with him (or anyone else) is not for you, then you break up with him — honestly and sensitively. The longer you stay together, the longer he thinks the relationship is heading toward marriage while you know it’s not, the more additional trauma it will bring him. And the longer it is till you self-actualize or whatever.
SM: I think almost every person goes through what you’re dealing with right now. And I don’t think the crux of the problem here is marriage or money. It’s about being with someone marvelous, and yet not being into them guiltily knowing you’ll be better off apart. It’s clear you need to break up. You’re right though — the trauma of his past break up is a real concern. But maybe the best thing you can give him and yourself is a non-traumatic breakup? Break up with him in the best possible way (in person after having dropped many hints and keeping up with his friends to ensure someone is checking in on him). Give him full emotional clarity and clarifications, which most breakups don’t give us. Some of the most beautiful relationships that we can experience aren’t the ones that make it to the end, but the ones with good endings. Okay, sorry for that dose of cheesiness, but that aside, if he can’t deal with it and things get ugly, you have to step away. One of the best things that a first relationship can teach you is how to deal with having broken a good heart. Treat this as the first of many, channelize your inner Lizzo and go put the ‘sing in single!’
AJ: Your woe has become my woe! Do you want to get a drink or something, and talk about it? Or.. you could convince him how getting married is a terrible idea and how both of you would be happier together, without it! More importantly, if he’s still hung up on his previous relationship, getting married might do more harm than good, for both of you. You’re giving him too much bhaav, I feel. Like PP said, you already know what the answer is. You know you need to part ways, for you to grow out of it and move on. But unlike my teammates, I feel that if withdrawing yourself emotionally is difficult, (and considering how marvelous he is), maybe you should maybe only hook up, and slowly stop meeting him at all.
AM: I think the time has come to bring this up with your boyfriend exactly the way you’ve written it to us. I know being confrontational is difficult but it’s best to speak the truth, especially about how you’re feeling in a relationship. Maybe once you speak with him about this, he’ll work on focusing on the present and making it better, rather than talking about what he wants in the future. And what if that changes your mind? The conversation may also help him clear his thoughts about his relationship with you — right now he thinks you’re on board with the idea of being married to him — and take a call on where he wants to see this go. If marriage is what he’s in this for, then it’ll help him know that this is not going in the right direction. If he’s matured over the years, he won’t associate this break-up with the past, he might just be understanding and think about you and your feelings the way you’re thinking about how he may feel when you guys break up. So, just a straight-up conversation with him, please.