“He Says He Wants to Break Up in A Year. Should I Do it Sooner?”

I am nearly a year into a relationship with a wonderful guy. He has all of these qualities that I never thought possible to find in one man – he’s caring, patient, thoughtful, mature, communicative, supportive, and more. We both work for the same organization right now and have talked openly about wanting to go other places and do other things, and I figured that if our future plans proved to be incompatible, we would cross that bridge when we came to it.

But recently, without even knowing exactly what he wants to do next, he’s told me that when it’s time for him to go on to the next thing, he would like to start fresh without me. Until then he wants to continue our relationship exactly as we have been, just with the understanding that we will go our separate ways in another year or so.

I thought I could handle this, but I am in constant pain. I’m always thinking about how much I’m going to miss him when he’s gone and feeling sad about all of the things we won’t do together. Shouldn’t I be able to live in the moment and enjoy this while it lasts? He continues to be the wonderful person that he is, and he hasn’t ceased doing any of the nice things for me that he’s always done. He has reassured me that there is nothing wrong with me but that he simply wants to have other experiences in his life. Am I crazy for having a really hard time with this?

I read all of this advice that says things like, “He’s not worth your time, find someone better.” But I think a decent guy like my boyfriend is a rare and precious find, and I’m reluctant to cut short what has been a really good thing. Maybe I still have a lot to gain from this relationship; maybe he will even change his mind!

Is this a classic case of a guy who won’t commit, and the obvious answer is to cut him off and look for someone who loves me enough to want to stay? It doesn’t feel that simple. He isn’t pulling away from me right now; if anything, he’s pulling closer. I don’t like either of my options: cut him off now and miss out on more time with someone I really love, or carry on, but with the pain of knowing that this won’t last. Is there a way to make either option less painful? — Heartbroken Either Way

The path of less pain isn’t necessarily always the best path, but having said that, the answer to your question is, yes, there is a way to make one of your options less painful. As you said, you have two options: Cut your boyfriend off now and miss out on more time with someone you really love, or carry on, but with the pain of knowing that this won’t last. It would seem that carrying on carries the biggest risk of pain.

Knowing that your boyfriend is likely going to end things when the relationship is no longer convenient for you tinges the whole scope of your relationship from here on out with pain. And then there’s all that learning to live without. You’re going to have to learn to live without eventually, so my advice is to skip the drawn-out pain of getting to that part and just get to that part.

I know what you’re thinking: But what if he changes his mind? Well, I promise if there’s any chance of that possibility, losing you now without his consent is going to affect him more deeply than losing you later by his own doing.

That’s not to say that you should end things as a manipulative tool to convince him that he can’t live without you. Ending things now would simply spare you the pain of a long, drawn-out, almost certain foregone conclusion and allow you to not skip the pain but to move much further ahead in the grieving of the relationship and your own healing process. I think it will also spare you a lot of the anger you would likely feel toward him if you stay with him another year hoping he’ll change his mind, only to be disappointed when he does as promised and leaves you for a “fresh new experience.” I mean, ouch.

Look, there’s going to be heartbreak either way, as you say in your sign-off. But I think there will be a less intense — and surely shorter — heartbreak if you end things now. Take the lessons you’ve learned from this relationship and your boyfriend — namely, that, yeah, is IS possible to find a man that possesses the qualities you’re looking for and that, oh, actually there’s one more quality you seek that this man doesn’t have and that’s the desire to stay with you.

A year ago you didn’t think you’d find a man who was caring, patient, thoughtful, mature, communicative, and supportive, and, yet, you did. There’s no reason you can’t find that again, and with someone who wants the same things you want, and at the same time, and with no one else but you. (And the sooner you make yourself available to that person, the sooner you will find him.)

P.S. I know how hard it is to leave someone you love, but when you do it because you know you need and deserve more than that person is willing or interested in giving you, it’s a very empowering thing. I’ve also found that the universe often rewards that kind of courage.

I am desperate for help. Where I live is a very “gossipy” town. Everyone knows everyone and I feel like I have no one to talk to about this. It’s been a year and I am still haunted by what I saw and overheard.

I am a divorced father of three. My family life seemed to be ideal to me and most outsiders. My wife, on the other hand, was having an affair for the last two years of our 16-year marriage. I was completely blindsided when I found out. After I confronted her and she admitted to the affair, I was still in a state of shock. A few years have passed and I am in a great place. I am more than happy I found out. My marriage was a lie; well, the last two years of it at least. The truth freed me and I am grateful for that.

About a year ago I was out to dinner with my colleagues. “Bryan,” a man I know through working with his non-profit, walked in with a young woman who was not his wife. I didn’t think much of it at first. I assumed he was with a family member or colleague catching up while he was in town. I noticed rounds of shots were being taken and the body language between them became more intimate — smiling, touching, giggling…very inappropriate for a married man out with a woman who is not his wife.

I left that night and never told anyone about it. I didn’t have facts and didn’t want to stir the pot.

Recently, I overheard a very similar scenario about Bryan and what seemed to be the same woman. The stories being talked about took place over the past year at a bar in town and after closing if you know what I mean. The way these men were talking about it so casually did not sit well with me. It was clear that his wife didn’t know, but also that they were also not making it seem like it was a secret.

I do not know Bryan’s wife, but I feel compelled to do something. If she knows of the affair and wants a divorce, that can be her choice. If she knows and wants to stay, that can also be her choice. She should not be the last to know like I was. I believe knowledge is power and she is in the dark.

Do I tell the wife now that the affair has been confirmed? Do I confront Bryan and give him a chance to come clean? I know she will be deeply hurt, but I truly stand by the idea that she needs to know. — Happily ever divorced

You really don’t know Bryan or his wife and you don’t know their marriage, what goes on in it, what goes on outside of it, who this other woman is, or what Bryan’s wife is privy to. And, frankly, it’s none of your business! You live in a “gossipy” town where people are probably starved for shit to stir up; the class-act men so casually discussing Bryan and this woman at a bar “after hours” — and, no, I don’t actually “know what that means” — offer no confirmation about anything at all except that I guess they, too, hang in bars “after hours,” whatever that means. Wait! Are THEY having an affair? That might be more exciting gossip for your town to mull over than whether Bryan is sleeping around behind his wife’s back.

Anyway, it would be wholly inappropriate for you to take it upon yourself to confront Bryan’s wife. Not only would it be socially and ethically inappropriate, but it would be putting your career at risk, too. Didn’t you say your connection with Bryan is through work? God, no. Come on, what are you thinking?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you could save someone else the shock and horror of being blindsided the way you were when you found out about your wife’s affair. But you couldn’t. Even if there was 100% confirmation that Bryan was having an affair, and 100% confirmation that his wife didn’t know about it, do you really think learning about it from a stranger would somehow soften the blow?! It wouldn’t.

And just because you are happier now having been freed from a marriage you think was a lie (at least the last two years of it anyway), doesn’t mean this woman would feel the same. She is not you. Her life is not yours. Her husband is not your wife. Her situation is not yours. You can’t re-write your own narrative by interfering in these people’s lives. You won’t be anyone’s hero — not your own, and certainly not Bryan’s wife.

Honestly, if it’s been a year since you saw Bryan out with this woman who isn’t his wife, smiling, touching, and giggling with her, and you are still haunted by the image of it all, I question whether you truly ARE as happy as you claim to be. I suspect you might be haunted by more than just the sight of a man you hardly know giggling with a woman he isn’t married to. It might be time to seek some therapy if you haven’t yet, to help you process the end of your marriage and really move on, once and for all.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. Why do you want to be with someone who says they are leaving you? I mean, if this is just a casual relationship, fine, but it doesn’t sound like you view it that way. I’d have ended it at that conversation.

  2. anonymousse says:

    LW1… a man who has an expiration date in mind doesn’t really sound that decent to me. I guess it’s nice that he told you ahead of time. What he’s told you has caused this pain. I agree with everything Wendy said. Break up and don’t look back.

    LW2… we’ve heard this one before. Did you write into the forums? The advice is still the same. It’s none of your business.

    1. anonymousse says:

      LW1… the more I think about it, there is a way to avoid heartbreak. Really think about what he said to you. Without any actual future plans, he knows you won’t be in it. He knows he doesn’t want to be with you. As much as that temporarily may hurt, you really should kick him to the curb. There are men out there who will want you in their future who are all those things you described and more. If you don’t leave this guy now, you’ll just miss opportunities to meet those better men, and waste your time feeling shitty knowing your bf doesn’t really love you.

      I’m sorry. But better to leave now than just be grasping at hope that his feelings will change. They won’t.

  3. LW1 i actually dated a guy in university who basically said the same thing to me….that he was going to move away for grad school, but that we could continue dating until he left…..to me that situation didn’t work….my gut told me that if the relationship wasn’t going to work out then just end it now….but i always feel a relationship should be building towards something (commitment, marriage, living together, kids…..i don’t know, but something)….i think its strange to request putting an expiration date on a relationship and expecting the other person to stick around until the other person decides they have had enough and will move on to the next thing….it shows something lacking in the other persons emotions in my opinion….its almost cruel….why should he get to dictate the length of the relationship….i would just end it and move on….find someone who cares enough about you to want to be in it for the long haul (assuming that is what YOU want)

  4. Is the affair article from an older letter? I could swear that I have seen it before somewhere.

    1. Ya I’ve for sure read it somewhere before

      1. Thats what I was thinking. The difference between the letter now is that the first letter he was not for sure what their relationship was but now its been confirmed. LW2 Honestly, if it was me I’d want to know. However, if some person I didnt know came up to me a told me my husband was having an affair it would be uncomfortable. Super uncomfortable. So no do not do that. I’m not quite sure confronting your colleague would be a good idea either. At the end of the day you barely know these people and know what goes on behind their closed doors. It appears you have wrote in twice seeking advice on this. Id stay out of it abd put your focus on your children and let the town gossip go,in one ear and out the other .

    2. Avatar photo juliecatharine says:

      He wrote into the forums a couple months ago. Hopefully this letter is old because if not the urgency of that therapy recommendation just got turned up a notch.

      1. I must have missed it in the forums as it did not sound familiar to me. I just received this letter a few days ago and I don’t have any other letters from this person in my email archives.

  5. LW1: It seems controlling and manipulative to say that to a person, that when the next thing comes at some vague time in the future, you will break up but let’s keep dating just as we are until that time. He could have said that he doesn’t see a potential for along term relationship with you, which would be the mature thing, but the way he put it puts him in control. he TOLD you you are his back-burner woman and it is p to HIM when to leave and end the relationship. i would dump him. Even if it were a casual relationship, there are kinder, less manipulative ways to discuss that.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Yeah, he cares 0% about wasting her time and is only worried about his own enjoyment and what he wants. It’s easy to get wrapped up in liking someone, but he doesn’t sound like a great person if he really expects her to put her life on hold for someone who doesn’t even like her that much.

  6. LW1 – he may be treating you well and “pulling closer,” as you say, but he’s not letting himself get too involved (or too close) with you if he’s already thinking about leaving you. That’s not what partnership or love looks like. He’s not envisioning a future with you, he’s envisioning a future without you. I agree with Wendy – it’s going to suck, but you should break up now to avoid prolonging or expanding your pain.

  7. LW1: He is not wonderful. I would never accept such a situation, to please him as long as he wants to date me and give him the latitude to break up later when it is convenient for him, and without guilt ! You are not his courtisane. You love him, you expect much more. This is inadmissible. You have to be respected by your man and it starts with ending at once such a bad deal. He dumped you in advance. Move on already. He deserves this and he knows it. What does he think, really? You should be angry, try to reach your angry self under the pain. I garantee you, as Wendy said, that if there is a slight chance for him to really take more seriously this relationship (I doubt it, he wouldn’t say that), it will be because you set your boundaries clearly. Men don’t like doormats.
    By the way, I remember a good friend who accepted such a deal. Well, at the announced time, the guy dumped her and she was devastated. I just couldn’t understand how the hell she could go on with that guy. If he says it openly, believe him. And dump him.

  8. LW 1 What this person is saying is: I don’t see a future here because doing this long distance isn’t worth it to me. There’s nothing wrong with that perspective, and it’s good that he’s putting that on the table right now. He’s being up front and very honest about his intentions. Whether you pull the plug now, or wait for whenever he moves to the next thing is entirely up to you and I don’t know which would be less painful. Don’t expect him to change his mind. That’s foolishness.

    LW2 – I get it, but not your circus, not your monkeys.

  9. LW1 – I dont blame the guy for wanting to go have more experiences in life. On the front end, at least he is being honest. However, a year almost into dating and he decides to have a fresh start without you? He hasnt been saying this since the beginning, has he? This sounds like he wants to break up with you but he probably wants you to be the one to break you guys up. Time is precious. Go get back out there dating so you can find your forever love, someone who doesnt actually but an expiration on your relationship.

  10. LW1, that is complete crap. I don’t even know what kind of guy says something like that. Yes, I do: not a decent one. I don’t know if he’s just immature or a manipulative jerk, but he’s not worth your time either way. A friend of mine once said, “The time you spend with Mr. Wrong is not time spent with Mr. Right.” I think this applies whatever your relationship goal is. Right now, he has all the power. Don’t give it to him. Take it back. Don’t waste any more time with this guy, dump him.

    1. I think the guy that says this is the same one that says that he’s not looking for anything serious or is uninterested in marriage. He’s being honest about what he wants. He wants to have this relationship until he leaves.

  11. LW1- I am sorry to hear that your relationship, which is working well in so many ways, just a big bump that changed things so abruptly. It’s ironic that your BF was likely trying to avoid a big, abrupt bump later by giving you this information now. Soiunds like he didn’t avoid it so much as rush the timing.
    All relationships have different levels of toughness and resiliency. How much the people in them share values and goals, how much respect and admiration there is, and how bravely the two communicate will have a lot to do with how much the relationship can tolerate before it goes kablooey. If this relationship crashes it isn’t going to be just one person’s fault, it’ll be a natural response to not being able to accommodate each other’s choices. And two reasonable people can find themselves in that place without one of them being a bad person.
    The hardest part for me is when I really want a relationship with someone and am willing to make huge accommodations to keep it, and the other person is unable or unwilling to let that desire influence their choices and make changes too. That’s a hard kind of sadness, but the only alternative is to enable the other person to make choices that hurt me, which is not a good kind of love.
    Wrapped up in this might be the difficulty of cultural conditioning. As much as I hate it, our culture teaches women (wives, mothers, sisters, aunts, assistants, servers, teachers) that we are the best versions of our roles when we accommodate the behavior of others, even when their behavior is rotten, even when it hurts us. I can see your, LW, struggling as you try to reconcile the request to stay in the relationship on your BF’s terms with what’s in your own heart and further with what you’re expected to do here. Ouch. Be kind to yourself, this is a real conundrum.
    Bottom line for me: If you wake up one day, or hang up a call, or get a flash of pain in your heart and you decide it’s time to react to your BF’s decision because you figured out what’s best for you…take an action. Don’t worry that it took time to make the choice…it is a big bump and you were going slowly and thoughtfully to be careful with people’s feelings. That’s admirable, not a reason to get stuck in a painful place longer than you can stand.
    And, please know that it’s very human to delay making a decision in the face of two options that both look painful. Happens all the time. We surrender the choice to other people, or let circumstances take away options until there’s only one road left. I don’t know why, but somehow feeling like we don’t have a choice can make it easier. BUT, I am in line with Wendy and suggest that it is in your best interest to move before you’re forced. I would suggest getting out of your BF’s immediate orbit for a week and see if that changes your perspective. At the very least it will give you time to focus on activities and relationships with people that don’t include your BF…which will likely help if what he told you is coming does happen. Good luck.

  12. LW1: I have felt the same pain you are feeling and one of my biggest regrets in life is not leaving him for good when he put me through that. The circumstances were different, but it was clear he had one foot out the door. He loved me like crazy, but for a variety of reasons he repeatedly pushed me away and I stuck around and let myself get treated poorly for EIGHT YEARS. It took me years to get over it and build myself back up again. Please follow Wendy’s advice, and take care of you. It will hurt, yes, but it will hurt so much less than it will a year down the line.

  13. dinoceros says:

    LW1: Your reasoning that you should spend more time with someone you care about would make more sense if spending time with him wasn’t also causing you pain. It’s also ignoring that fact that the more time you spend with someone, the more invested you feel. Think the idea of moving on hurts now? Try after you have another year of this person in your life. And he’s not going to change his mind — if he cared about you as much as you care about him, he wouldn’t even be considering breaking up when he moves on. You know this. If this were more than just a fun way to spend his time, then he would also be upset about the idea of breaking up. Consider that most of the people giving you advice to end things have been through similar situations (maybe not this exactly, but having ended something too late when they should have done it sooner).

    1. dinoceros says:

      Also, if you want to potentially meet someone you can have a future with, this is a no-brainer. If you wait until he dumps you, then there will be a year + whatever amount of time it takes you to get over him before you have the possibility of meeting someone. A year from now, you can either be happy or you can be sad.

  14. LW1: I don’t know how you could stand to stay with this guy for another minute. What he’s telling you is that he’s not in love with you, and he’s not ever going to be in love with you. He doesn’t feel the same way about you that you do about him.

    Worse, what’s he’s really saying is that you’ll do until something better comes along. You’re not enough for him, and he sees no future with you, but he’ll keep seeing you if you want because it’s better than being alone.

    I can’t imagine the damage you’ll do to your self-esteem if you stay in this situation. For god’s sake, move on and find someone who really wants you.

  15. LW1: what really gets me is that it’s not like there is any defined time point at which your bf will be moving on to something else – right? There’s no looming graduation, deployment, end of a contract, or anything. He simply decided that after a year of dating, he doesn’t want a future with you, but you’ll do for companionship/sex for now. (He’s not going to change his mind btw. Guys who love you and want to keep you around don’t tell you in advance that they’re planning to dump you and move on.) He’s just not that into you. Cut your losses and break up now.

    LW2: This letter was most definitely in the forums. The advice remains the same – MYOB! You don’t really know anything about this couple’s marriage, and nothing good will come from you getting involved in the situation.

  16. I re-read your letter. I think you are really in a kind of masochist position. This relationship is bringing you pain and uncertainty. It stopped being great and a positive experience for you. Make yourself come first. This is not complicated as you think it is. This is simple. It is already over, and you shouldn’t volunteer for relationships that hurt you. You should pursue what makes you strong, happy, and progress forwards in your life. Break up and take some distance from him professionally. You can do it, you are an independent and active woman. Later, you will realise that you wasted your time in a very painful situation. The sooner you stop it, the better for you – and for him, as he will have to own his decision, which he doesn’t. If he had respect for you, he would stop it now, the minute he realises there is no future for him. He just likes taking as much as you can offer – hence: the “pulling closer”, to retain you when he just broke your heart. Send him to the curb. Aim a better match than this bad deal.

  17. I dated a guy once and then found out he had done this – what you’re describing – to his ex-girlfriend. When he moved to a different city, he had told her something along the lines of “We don’t have to break up now, but there might come a time when I feel like I have to experience this new life without the ties of my relationship”. I was horrified when he told me. He also said that she’d been livid when she’d found out the new experience, well, was me (that was news to me too) and he didn’t acknowledge her feelings because “he had been clear about their relationship/they had an agreement” or some BS that sounded like it was obvious to him and vague to her. I felt so damn bad for the ex. LW1, your guy now has a reason to, essentially, not care about you or your feelings anymore. Wouldn’t you rather be alone than with someone who treats you like your feelings don’t count? Please end this. This is not okay.

  18. LW#1, your boyfriend sounds like a tool. People break up when they no longer want to be together or realize that their goals and life plans aren’t aligned with their partner’s. Your boyfriend just told you have doesn’t want to be with you (long term) but tried to hide that under the idea of different goals (his obviously being the ‘new experience’ of sleeping with other people). The fact that it sounds like he just proclaimed what will happen (break up on his schedule but you should stick around now because that’s also what he wants right now) as opposed to initiating a *conversation* about your relationship status and plans makes him a tool.

    Break up with him now, and save yourself the heartbreak of ending a two-year long relationship instead of a one-year long one, and don’t end up with a year of regret that you wasted on him.

    Scenarios in which it would be reasonable to keep the relationship going – you were perfectly ok with knowing it would end eventually, or you two had mutually reached the realization that your long term goals weren’t compatible but also mutually decided that you were happier short term staying together despite knowing that. It does not sound like these apply to you.

    1. JFC What a douchebag. He’s just submitting it until he gets the answer the wants.

      1. And she gave it to him so now he can go cause trouble and ruin peoples lives out of his speculation.

    2. Indeed, WTF is up with that response? Ugh.

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