Woe Is Me! “I Can’t Let Go of My On‑Again, Off‑Again Relationship. How Do I Break the Cycle?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I have been in an amazing relationship with a guy for the last five years. But everything suddenly changed in 2022 — he has tried to break up with me six times in the last three months saying he might be depressed and/or he no longer feels the way I do. I refuse to leave because I know he wouldn’t seek help and just let it sink him. I love him and want to be there for him. But in the process, I know I’m being mistreated in the relationship, and I don’t know how much more of it I can take. Every time I end things, I feel guilty about leaving him when he is so vulnerable, and I call him up asking him to get back together. I feel powerless and helpless because I am not allowed to help him. What should I do?”
— You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello
PB: Hello! I have a new, surprising, amazing fact for you — it’s not your job to fix him.
If he’s attempted to break up with you six times, I think it’s pretty clear there’s no point in continuing to bang your head against the door. His mental health issues are not yours to fix, if he doesn’t ask for your help — don’t force it on him. His desires and wants mean just as much as yours, and you’re not doing anyone any favor by continuing to force yourself into this relationship.
You’ve been mistreated in this relationship, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that. But if it’s come this far, I suggest you break this vicious cycle and move on. Holding onto a cuddly teddy bear brings no comfort if it’s strangling you. I know our media and culture at large are obsessed with the broken man, and how a woman is supposed to “fix” him, and help him “get over” his depression. Well, news flash: you have yourself to look after. Help does not help if the person doesn’t want it.
Please, repeat after me — “I am not Shraddha Kapoor from Aashiqui 2.”
RN: I have one word for you: therapy. Actually, I have one more: self-compassion. The answer is right in front of you — it’s flashed in front of your very eyes six times. This person no longer wants to be in a relationship. You don’t deserve somebody who cannot commit to you or be the partner to you that you are to them. You deserve reciprocity, mutual love and respect, trust, and a general desire to remain together. At the moment, this relationship looks super one-sided. You can’t help him if he isn’t even willing to help himself. In 2022, we no longer turn depressed sadbois into our passion projects. You cannot fix this one, nor are you obligated to. You can only empathize — as I do — and wish him well on his way out of your life.
DR: Here are two words I think you should text him soon: “Boy, bye.” I’m not going to deny that it’s going to be difficult; it will hurt — a lot, and for days. Then, time will have finished weaving its magic wand, and suddenly, you’ll realize just how much the pain has subsided. The important thing, though, is that it’ll pass — sooner or later. And the sooner you take the first step, the quicker you’ll get there. So, instead of prolonging your misery, I say it’s time to rip the bandaid off.
Look, I was in a relationship for five years too — longer, in fact. Seven years have passed since we broke up, and I couldn’t be happier it ended. I actually wish I hadn’t subjected myself to it for as long as I did. So, what I’m telling you is, perhaps, what I would tell my past self too.
You’re fighting a losing battle, and you probably know that better than I do. But if you’re struggling to accept it, let me help by asking you a question: who, according to you, is benefitting from you staying in a relationship that’s far past its expiration date? Not him, clearly, since he’s already tried to break up with you, and six times at that. The mistreatment you’re enduring isn’t doing your mental health any good either — in fact, the longer you let this go on, the longer your future therapy bills are going to be.
SK: Keep your partner aside for a hot second. Why do you refuse to leave? Why do you feel guilty? Why do you want to be “allowed” to help him? I understand the care and compassion you feel obligated to pass on in a relationship, but no one said the only way to love someone is by suffocating them. You love him, then leave him, because clearly, he has asked for space and time to recover in whichever way he thinks best.
Your guilt and desire to help him, among other things, is the product of living in a deeply patriarchal society. The next time you feel compelled to be by his side, take a moment to think the injustice you’re doing to your worth and dignity. Every person deserves love and care but their way of receiving it/our way of giving it don’t always match. Shift the focus away from your partner onto yourself, and ask, how can you help yourself escape this pattern of wanting to fix him?