Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Thinks He’s a Loser, So He Dumped Me”

Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by freelance writer, Rachel East, AKA ReginaRey.

I have been in a relationship for over two years. During those two years, my boyfriend has had a few struggles, which I have helped him through. These struggles include trouble finding and keeping jobs, keeping his grades up, and dealing with personal issues from his childhood. In the past six months, he has gotten his grades up past anyone’s expectations. He’s secured a job. And he’s learning to work through events that have happened in his childhood and understands they do not define his future.

Recently, I started grad school. He is still in undergrad and by the time I get my master’s, he will get his bachelor’s. I also got a promotion at my job I’ve had for four years. I’m not sure if he’s feeling intimidated, but I’m pretty sure he is, and here’s why:

Last night, he called me to come over. Once I did, he said he thinks I should start seeing someone else. I should go on dates with other people and that I need to get over him because he can’t give me what I need. I cried and tried to reassure him I didn’t want that but he kept saying, “I’m a loser. You can do better than me. You’ll thank me for this; I’m doing this to make you happy.” Through tears I said, “But this is making me miserable.”

He said not to talk to him for a few weeks. He wants to see if he can do things “on his own.” He is sure this is what’s “best for me.” I am so sick and confused over this. I don’t know what to do or what to think. Please, please help me. I feel like my world is upside down. — Good Enough for Him

Being in a relationship means sometimes, you’re the shoulder that your partner leans on. In return, you get a shoulder when you’re not strong enough to get by on your own. The problem is, leaning is supposed to be temporary. But for the majority of your relationship, you were much more than someone to lean on during tough times – you were a crutch. It sounds like for at least two years, you were your boyfriend’s motivator and nurturer. When he couldn’t keep a job or get good grades, you served as the push he needed to get back on track. In the past six months, however, it seems like your boyfriend came to a very important realization – his motivation needs to come from within, not from another person.

Your intentions were good, I’m sure. But when you’re the main supplier of someone else’s drive, it can inadvertently do very negative things to the relationship. You become something of an authority figure, and your partner begins to feel like an employee who’s under-performing. It strips the unmotivated person in the relationship of their power, making them feel less-than-worthy, and in the process you lose the equality that’s critical to a healthy partnership.

Your boyfriend is right. It shouldn’t have to be your job to ensure he maintains good grades, stays steadily employed, and continuously driven. That’s his job. The good thing is, he realizes that he needs to be his own motivator. He may say right now that the breakup is for your benefit, but I think he realizes he’s also doing it for him. He wants to prove to himself that he’s capable of achievement without any help.

The question you’re ultimately asking is: “How can I convince my boyfriend that he IS good enough for me?” The answer? You can’t. Nothing you say can change something as deeply ingrained as insecurity. Can you imagine if simply telling someone not to feel insecure or unworthy actually worked?? Therapy wouldn’t exist, that’s for sure.

His confession has irrevocably damaged this relationship. If you continue with it now, his constant insecurity will absolutely end up killing it. It’s not fair for him to be in a partnership that makes him feel unworthy, and it’s not fair for you to be made to feel guilty for your accomplishments. He deserves the chance to grow and mature without anyone’s help. He’ll become a much stronger, more confident person if he learns how to succeed using his own drive. And you know what? Maybe after a few years, you two will find yourselves on more equal footing, and you can give this relationship another shot.

But for now, you need to treat this like an absolute breakup. Cut communication with him and move on. Use this time to do some necessary self-reflection. I’m sure you got positive things out of this relationship, and that your boyfriend provided for you in ways that were important to you, despite some of his setbacks in other areas. But ultimately, relationships require balance to function properly. For a partnership to be healthy, you can’t be a constant crutch. You deserve to have a partner who is inherently motivated and strong, for the times when you need someone to lean on.

*ReginaRey (Real Name: Rachel East) is a full-time Events & Promotions Coordinator and a part-time freelance writer focusing on dating and relationships. One day, after tackling grad school, she plans to be your Marriage and Family Therapist…because the only thing better than talking about relationships all day is getting paid to talk about relationships all day. You can check out her weekly column here and follow her on Twitter @MissRachelEast.

65 comments… add one
  • spark October 20, 2011, 7:34 am

    I agree with everything Rachel said about a relationship like this not being healthy. I was in one once–I was his crutch, and, as much as I loved him, it was so emotionally exhausting. I just could not be his everything; it was bad for both of us. Eventually, and quite painfully, I ended things. He, on the other hand, would have never ended it–he was getting everything that he needed.

    Which brings me to where I kind of disagree with Rachel. I don’t think he’s seeing the light that this is unhealthy and altruistically breaking up with you. I just don’t think that that happens often. Yes, I think he (and everyone who uses his/her S.O. as a crutch) knows exactly what’s going on, and that’s it’s codependent and unhealthy. However, I think he is done with the relationship, for whatever reason, and is using this as an excuse to end things. He’s not leaving a relationship he wants for your sake. If he wants it, he will stay in it. I think he’s decided, for whatever reason, that it is not working anymore. With this excuse, he avoids the uncomfortable, “What did I do? Why don’t you want me?” from you.

    Just a thought. Great advice, though, Rachel!

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    • Christy October 20, 2011, 7:55 am

      I fall somewhere in between your response and ReginaRey’s. I don’t think he’s using the codependence as an excuse. I don’t think the breakup is entirely altruistic either–I think he realized that he will be better in the long run if he figures himself out on his own. He’s doing it for himself, for the selfish reason of improving himself, but he’s not using that self-improvement as an excuse for something else.

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    • atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 3:35 pm

      AAgree in a way. I think he feels undermined as a man and is turned off. As archaic as it sounds lots of people still cling to traditional male/female roles. He’s not able to be the “man” around you and probably feels like a child. Which does not inspire sexy feelings in most men. It’s not your fault. Find a man that can handle being younger/making less dough than you.

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  • Robin October 20, 2011, 7:54 am

    I agree with Spark above – to me, it sounds like he is using this as an excuse to get out of the relationship. It’s basically a fancy version of “It’s not you, it’s me.” Since he’s doing better now, I wonder if he is actually thinking he doesn’t need the LW anymore and can do better? He sounds kind of like a jerk.

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    • MiMi October 20, 2011, 9:17 am

      totally. it sounds like one of those deals where the “fat” partner was encouraged and validated by the other partner and now that they’ve lost weight and are all hot, they move on because they can now attract someone “better.” No good deed goes unpunished, LW, so look around for a new boyfriend who isn’t a project.

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      FireStar October 20, 2011, 9:44 am

      I don’t understand why you think he is a jerk? No one took any vows here. If a relationship no longer meets your needs, I would think the best thing you can do is move on – freeing both people to find partners better suited for them.

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      • Laurel October 20, 2011, 9:51 am

        Telling someone you’re hurting them for their own good is kind of a jerk thing to do.

      • Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 9:53 am

        Especially when it implies that they, as a grown man/woman, aren’t capable of figuring out what’s good for them. Takes you back to being about 6 years old, doesn’t it?

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        FireStar October 20, 2011, 10:16 am

        But isn’t that what ends up happening with most LWs? They write in about their “communications issues” and we all scream at them to MOA since WE feel they aren’t figuring out what is good for them? I agree that the soft sell of “It’s not you, it’s me” isn’t necessarily truthful – but is it really better to hear “I’m leaving you because I think I can do better now” or whatever his true reason is? Wouldn’t hearing this be more damaging to her self esteem? We tell women all the time his reasons for leaving had nothing to do with you…if that is true – do you really need the play-by-play? To me this didn’t sound like a break up where you had to tell the other person about themselves. I have no idea how this plays out for other women. For me, the first hint I have that you don’t want to be with me is reason enough for me to say peace out.

      • Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 10:26 am

        With LWs on an advice website, the situation is profoundly different. They are actively soliciting our/Wendy’s advice on what is good for them, and they are free to act or not act on it as they see fit.

        On the other hand, people who break up using the line “you’ll thank me later, this is what’s best for you” drive me crazy because I *didn’t* ask them to determine what’s best for me and I *don’t* have a choice about breaking up. It’s not for you to decide what I’m worthy of or what I deserve. Opinions are great, but don’t force me.

        Frankly, I don’t think either of those ways is going to be easy on her self-esteem. Either he treats her like a child who doesn’t know what’s good for her, or he treats her like an adult who is inadequate. There is no such thing as a gentle letdown for breaking up. Personally, I would rather he at least be honest. So he thinks he can do better — screw him. At least he’s not leading her on with the hope that maybe he’ll take her back soon.

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        FireStar October 20, 2011, 10:50 am

        I just don’t see it. If he tells the truth it is still “screw him.” To me if someone is telling me something it could be the truth or it couldn’t. I could believe it or I couldn’t. That gives me a 25% chance of hearing and believing a version of the truth. And a 75% chance of either believing a lie or discounting whatever he says anyway. Maybe that makes me arrogant but for a 25% chance at some semblance of truth – keep your explanations and go with God.

      • Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 12:36 pm

        I guess it comes down to difference of opinion then, which is totally fine 🙂

        I guess I think that if I’m going to be insulted either way, it might as well be accurate: I’m an adult with human flaws that you are not ok with, not some brainless kid who needs to be taken care of.

        I also find bad liars to be insulting to everyone’s intelligence, including their own. True, they might be lying or they might not, and you might believe them or not, but those odds fluctuate based on how plausible the story is. “I cheated on you because deep down I don’t think I’m good enough for you”? Improbable, but plausible. “Evil gremlins who live under my bed sent mind probes into my brain and made me cheat on you”? Give me a break.

        In the end, I suppose it’s a pride thing coupled with my obsession with knowing the facts. I’m a knowledge whore, I admit it.

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        Budjer October 20, 2011, 9:54 am

        I agree he isn’t a jerk. But I would say it is fairly tactless to approach it the way he did…and it opens him up to suspicion and criticism. He should have talked about HIS reasons for it and not his reasons for her…

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        caitie_didn't October 20, 2011, 11:13 am

        Definitely. He’s not necessarily a jerk, but the way he broke up with her was jerky.

        Kindness and honesty are always the best way to end a relationship, and they aren’t mutually exclusive!

      • Genshiken October 20, 2011, 2:38 pm

        Long time reader, first time poster :).

        I never got the idea in in LW’s letter he was “moving on to keep his options open.” It sounded like both the LW and boyfriend are on the path of success, but the boyfriend felt he still couldn’t measure up.

        I’ve been in the boyfriend’s shoes before. I don’t want to call it insecurity, but knowing your partner is doing well and is “ready” for most things that come their way, be it a job, or school, hell, even a social life can be scary. I can relate to the boyfriend having issues, mine were really bad at the time (living at home with emotionally and verbally abusive mother after I lost my job). My partner at the time had his issues too, but with a job that had a great boss, got all the classes he wanted at campus, I just felt I was too much drama.

        Of course, it was all in my head. He didn’t care about my b.s. He wanted to be with me, so he was. And was willing to stick it out. But, as I usually overthink everything, I felt damaged. Too damaged to be loved, at least for now. So I told him flat out, you are on a much more stable path than me. I feel like I am weighing you down and think you should find someone who doesn’t feel like I do. Of course, he wanted things to work out. I never gave it a chance. I didn’t want it to. I was already out and didn’t want him to think he still had a chance when he just didn’t.

        Now, my situation has improved. I had Depression and now taking treatment for it. I’m a communication major (with NO ‘S’ :D) but still no job. Stupid California economy :P. I feel okay enough to start dating again, but that took a while. We all need the time for personal reflection and some need it longer than others. Maybe all that was going through his mind. You helped him so much, he may now need to be alone.

        LW, you are not crazy. You wanted to be a good girlfriend, a great partner and the best human being you could for him. And that’s okay. Neither of you are wrong for the feelings you two had. No one ever said break-ups are easy and if someone ever had the cojones to say that, they’re liars!

        Be alone, LW. Work for yourself now. Look at yourself in the mirror and see your potential. From the sound of the letter, you were keeping your chin up for two, trying to smile for two. Practice smiling for one. 🙂

      • atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 3:41 pm

        Three years ago I broke up with someone because I felt too damaged and not good enough. Even though that person never gave any indication of thinking that. I had depression too. Then we got back together for about a month and he dumped me because he found out I had depressionand he didn’t think he could handle a person with mental problems (ridiculous since I was just as depressed as earlier I just had a label on it which apparently makes a world of difference). Boy did that bring back all the old feelings of not feegling ood enough and damaged lol. But yes, people do break up with others because of their own insecurities as ridiculous as it sounds. And you need to find someone who is secure enough for a relationship LW. I felt awful for breaking up with teh guy until he went and did it to me for the reasons he did.

    • davo January 5, 2017, 4:25 am

      that’s simply untrue. there are fellows out there who separate because they genuinely believe it’s the best thing for the lady. i know because i’m one of those fellows. there would be nothing more sad and heartbreaking than seeing such a beautiful girl miserable and struggling.

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    FireStar October 20, 2011, 8:14 am

    Does it really matter what reason he gives you for ending the relationship? Maybe he is telling the truth, maybe he is spinning it to not look like a bad guy. Ultimately, what you know for sure is he wants out. There is nothing you can convince him of to change that fact. A lot of women become very invested in men they “fix” but that type of relationship rarely ends well. So break cleanly and find someone who does not require any “fixing” on your part. I think your ex is right – one day you will be thankful he ended it.

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    • Carolynasaurus October 20, 2011, 11:37 am

      I have to agree with you. I never understand people who are dumped and try to win the other person back. They told you to your face that they don’t want to be with you and you weren’t so incredibly insulted that you try to spend MORE time and energy on that person.

      Give him some time and space (a minimum of three months with no contact) and let yourself move on. Maybe you’ll eventually reconcile but it sounds like you’re so much better off without him.

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      • hhr October 20, 2011, 12:53 pm

        If you take his reason for the breakup at face value, he still wants to be with her, but he’s initiating the breakup for HER. The LW wants to believe (b/c he said so) that he doesn’t really want out and is trying to do her a favor because he thinks he’s a “loser” and wants her to have a better life with someone else. She probably doesn’t really know for sure, the way her mind is processing the breakup, that he “wants out.” When it’s your life and your situation, you really WANT to believe exactly what the person you love tells you. She doesn’t actually see that he doesn’t still want her (although it’s clear to us, people outside the situation, that if he still wanted to be with her, he would stay). So I can see why she’d still make the effort to “win him back.” Hopefully the comments on DW will help her see the light.

      • Carolynasaurus October 20, 2011, 1:01 pm

        I can see your rationale, but to me, this is part of the reason there are so many *facepalm* comments on here: a lot of women only see what they want to see. She needs to give him what he clearly asked for, some space, and maybe she’ll then be able to see what’s actually going on, rather than the pretty illusion she’s focusing on so it doesn’t hurt as much.

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    Budj October 20, 2011, 9:03 am

    Excellent response RR.

    LW, give him his space – but also try and let him know that the door is open in the future if/when he is more secure…that isn’t recommending to wait it out….but at least let him know this doesn’t have to be the end all. Sucky situation, but you will get through it.

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      Budj October 20, 2011, 9:15 am

      shameless plug…but we just got the recording of our new single back from Georgetown Masters…if you want it like my band and send me a message on fb (I’m Anthony) with your e-mail (use a fake one, idc) and I’ll get it to you tonight…scout’s honor your e-mail won’t be redistributed nor will I e-mail stalk you and everyone will be blind cc’d.

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      • honeybeenicki October 20, 2011, 10:28 am

        Nothing wrong with shameless plugs, especially when they involve music 🙂 What kind of music is it? I’m always up for listening to a band I’ve never heard.

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        Budjer October 20, 2011, 10:29 am

        alternative – a little poppy – this song actually has a lot of “ambience” if you are into that…we will have a zombie themed music video up on youtube this weekend with the song…just in time for halloween 🙂

      • honeybeenicki October 20, 2011, 11:02 am

        I’ll have to check it out. And I love anything to go along with Halloween and zombies. I have what people would call an addiction to all things Halloween.

  • silver_dragon_girl October 20, 2011, 9:10 am

    I know it hurts, LW, but I agree with RR, and Spark…he wants to break up with you to be on his own for a while (hopefully), and he does, in fact, want to break up with you. You can’t talk him out of it, or change his mind, or show him that he’s wrong. You’ve just got to give him some space.

    And while you’re giving him space, please, please DON’T wait around for him to “come back.” Yes, it’s possible he might, but in all likelihood he never will. You need to accept that it’s over and do your best to (eventually) move on.

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  • artsygirl October 20, 2011, 9:17 am

    LW – Your answer is in the title. He dumped you and despite your every attempt to change his mind he was firm. The relationship is over and the healthiest thing for you is to break off communication and try to focus on your school. I can only imagine how painful this is, but if you are truly meant to be together you will make it work later on. I am sending lots of interweb love your way.

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  • MJ October 20, 2011, 9:17 am

    Ugh, LW, I’m sorry. I hate when people tell you how you should feel or that “it’s better for you in the long run” as if you don’t know what you want or what’s good for you. And then leaving you feeling as though you have to convince them that they’re wrong.

    But he said he didn’t want to be with you. However maddeningly he couched it, there it is. You need to respect his wishes and acknowledge that yeah, he broke up with you. (I’m sorry. It sucks so much.)

    I think Rachel gave you fantastic advice, and I hope you can find someone who is motivated on his own, in the same way you are.

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    • lets_be_honest October 20, 2011, 11:50 am

      Yes, what you said. And I might add—he sounds like a big freakin’ BABY so count your blessings and like others are saying, find someone who doesn’t need a mommy.

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    • Slamy October 20, 2011, 1:40 pm

      “But he said he didn’t want to be with you. However maddeningly he couched it, there it is. You need to respect his wishes and acknowledge that yeah, he broke up with you. (I’m sorry. It sucks so much.)”

      This. This is what I needed to hear today.

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    leilani October 20, 2011, 9:30 am

    Insecurity about status or accomplishments can definitely take a huge toll on a relationship. My ex-boyfriend was always a little behind me on stuff like that, and it always managed to be an issue. For awhile he didn’t have a job, and while I was fine picking up the tab on things for a bit, he was extremely insecure about it. It just led him to be bitter and resentful and convinced that I was going to up and leave him as soon as I found a dude with a bigger bank account. While our different statuses didn’t have to be an issue, his insecurity made it one.

    In your case, however, I have to wonder: is this the first time this has come up? If he is truly so down on himself that he believes that he is doing you a service by breaking up with you, I would have to imagine you would’ve heard things about this before. If this is out of the blue, I would guess this has less to do with a crippling insecurity because you are so accomplished, and more just him not feeling it that much anymore. It could be because he feels that you guys are in two different places in your lives, or because he doesn’t feel like the “man” in the relationship. Or, it could be for an unrelated reason, and this is the nicest way he can think of to break up with you. Either way, it doesn’t matter. You can’t change his mind, you can only move on.

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  • Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 9:43 am

    Nice response, RR!

    Best case scenario: He really is leaving you so that he can make sure he’s pulling his own weight in the relationship. He genuinely feels unworthy, or unsure of his worthiness, and as long as you are in the picture he’ll never be sure whether he’s standing on his own two feet or whether you’re still propping him up. Given a little time and space for him to “find himself”, he will come circling back to present himself as an equal partner instead of a charity project.

    Worst case scenario: He’s gotten what he needs from you and now he’s done with you. He picked a variation of the it’s-not-you-it’s-me line in a botched attempt to let you down easy, but he’s still totally done with this relationship. He’s gone and he’s not coming back.

    Even worse scenario: He actually pulled that line to purposely make you feel guilty and insecure about your accomplishments. Talk about adding insult to injury.

    Bottom line, we have no way of knowing for sure what his motives are but the course of action is the same: take his word for it. Walk away. If he wants you back, ever, he’ll have to fight that battle on your terms.

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    • DDL October 20, 2011, 11:19 am


      At this point, he’s made his decision to let you go so he can feel like his own person, presumably, and there’s nothing you can do about it, LW. Feel the emotions you are feeling, but don’t get caught up in them. You are successful and accomplished and maybe this is a good time to take some time for yourself and focus on doing things that YOU want to do.

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  • Lindsay October 20, 2011, 9:59 am

    Whether the reason he gave is true or not, the point is that he thinks you two should stop dating. He may have had some trouble in life and maybe insecure, but he’s an adult who made a decision. He didn’t say this and may not even realize it, but being his crutch can also be bad for him. He needs to learn how to get through things on his own. You wouldn’t want, down the line, to find out that he was only with you for the help you provided or because he didn’t know if he could handle life without you. So, yeah, like Rachel said, treat this like a breakup. I wouldn’t necessarily follow your boyfriend’s advice and go find someone else to date immediately, but take the time to adjust to what’s happening and maybe spend some time on yourself that may have been lost in all this.

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  • Michelle October 20, 2011, 10:19 am

    completely agree. I was also a former crutch, and eventually it go to be too much. it’s overwhelming to be the one that feels responsible (completely) for the other person’s happiness and wellbeing. dont get me wrong, i loved him very very much. but he had issues that i couldnt overcome on my own, and unfortunately he wasnt offering help. it doesnt seem ‘bad’ at first, and it feels like you’re doing the right thing by helping him with everything, but it gets to a point when you may start to resent it. once you’ve had time to be away from him, and possibly find someone else, you’ll look back and see what was really going on. hindsight really is 20/20.

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    • DDL October 20, 2011, 11:21 am

      Totally, once you’ve been a crutch, you definitely learn to never be one again.

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      • lets_be_honest October 20, 2011, 11:51 am

        For my sister’s sake, I hope you’re right!

      • Nick October 20, 2011, 12:30 pm

        If only this were true generally. But I believe the opposite is truer.

        Being a rescuer is something certain people do, not just serially, but in every way in their lives. “Rescue” is a social “game”, well documented. The payoff for the rescuer actually IS when the rescued person leaves. “Look how hard I tried” and “nothing ever goes my way no matter how generous I am” “I’m such a great [wife, husband, friend, mother, worker]” etc. Often played with the unwitting help of well-meaning folks in, ahem, sympathetic environments like this. It can be an excuse for unhappiness and a sympathy play when it’s unhealthy or played unconsciously. IMO it’s a deep (and often unconscious) form of dishonesty and inauthenticity. Sorry to be blunt, but I say this in hopes of being actually helpful to people who are unfamiliar with the game, not to incur wrath, which it does most of the time when it’s called out. That’s my pop psych input on this one, which I’ll balance by saying:

        LW: consider therapy to recognize and escape this Rescue pattern. Good luck!
        DW community: consider your role in the game.

      • MissDre October 20, 2011, 1:33 pm

        I kind of a agree with you hear. Once when I was in a therapy session talking about how miserable I am and nobody loves me and I’m never good enough and I hate myself… my therapist asked me, “So, what are you getting out of this? What is your payoff?”

        I said, “I dunno, what do you mean?”

        He said,” You must be getting something out of this mentality, otherwise you would’ve fixed it a long time ago.”

        Boy was that a hard question to answer.

      • MissDre October 20, 2011, 1:34 pm

        Errr…. hear = here.

      • lets_be_honest October 20, 2011, 1:51 pm

        side note-loved “meeting” you, but was late to the party so figured I’d pipe in here where you would probably see it.

      • atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 3:48 pm

        YES! I was in therapy once and my therapist asked me if a part of me enjoyed being the depressed person? I did not know how to answer that. Mainly because it was true. You get used to taking on a certain role in life

      • atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 3:49 pm

        my therapist once asked me if there was a part of me that enjoyed being the dpressed person. That question really hit home. Once you take on a role or a persona for yourself it’s hard to break it

      • atraditionalist January 16, 2012, 3:50 pm

        it told me my reply didn’t go through the first time-sorry!

      • Michelle October 20, 2011, 2:54 pm

        I totally agree with the rescue mentality, but it’s easier to spot after you’re done with the relationship, or at least it was for me. My fiance was also a ‘rescuer’, and was married twice and it didnt work out for similar reasons. we’re both very happy to know that we can survive separately (and well), and choose to be together.

  • 6napkinburger October 20, 2011, 11:25 am

    I honestly think that this one of the least jerky guys we’ve seen in a while. And LW, I just got out of a relationship almost exactly like this, only it was me who wanted out.

    And I honestly don’t see it as “telling you what to feel.” Since I met my ex, with my pushing, he asked for and received a huge promotion; applied to, got accepted and started an Ivy-league graduate program (which took an entire summer of both of us learning how to write those essays, apparently it had to be a two-person job because “I was a better writer than he”) and started to plan his “career” rather than just his (already very good) job. And it was exhausting and since he made me such a big part of it, I couldn’t sit still when he did things “wrong” and we’d fight about how he was handling his boss, his coworkers, his cohorts. And I hated that and even though it wasn’t my place to be mad at those things, I was, all the time.

    I broke up with my partner because it wasn’t fair to him that I was mad at him all the time and I felt he should be with someone who isn’t mad at him because he (and everyone) deserves that? Sounds kind of similar right?

    But I didn’t even mean it in a “its only about you” kind way, some sort of “fake altruism” where I get to feel all noble and good and make his decisions for him. It still was about me. I couldn’t find a way not to be mad at him all the time. I hated being mad at him all the time and I hated being a person who made her boyfriend feel bad because his girlfriend was mad at him all the time. So I ended it because I hated how it made ME feel. It was “selfish” in an Ayn Randian kind of way, as in, it was about ME and how I felt. I couldn’t stand being that person so I had to end it.

    So I told him it was both, because it WAS both. I couldn’t be the person to make him feel that way, and it broke my heart that he DID feel that way and he deserves better. And I deserve not to feel that way too, but I didn’t tell him that; that’s implied. I couldn’t say to him “I don’t trust your judgement and I need someone who I can trust more who doesn’t make me mad; I deserve that.” What does he gain from hearing that? I’m already hurting him. THAT is insult to injury.

    And it didn’t matter if HE was ok with it, if he was willing to deal with me being mad at him and micromanaging him for whatever he got out of the relationship, because it wasn’t ok with me that I was making him feel that way. Regardless of whether HE valued it that highly, *I* did. And I valued how it made me feel and how I felt. So LW you can’t convince your ex that its not important to you, because that doesn’t matter. It’s important to him and he’s allowed to value that.

    And maybe I’ll realize that this guy is the guy for me, and that it IS worth feeling like that, or I’ll learn to let it go because of all of his other qualities. Or maybe I’ll find someone who doesn’t make me feel that way AND has the other qualities. I don’t know, so I have to try. And so does he.

    I don’t think he used you and dumped you. I don’t think he’s faking “It’s not you, it’s me.” I don’t think he’s telling you how to feel. I think he’s being true to how he feels and that I can respect him for that. You don’t have to, you can hate him. And eat ice cream. And DVR large quantities of Criminal Minds because it’s the one show that doesn’t involve people who are happier than you are and thus you can forget about feeling sad for 42 minutes and there seem to be never-ending marathons on 3 different channels. But you dated a good guy who you helped get on his feet and he felt that the relationship was something he couldn’t do anymore, because of how it made HIM feel. Nothing that you could have changed; its about him and breakups are allowed to be about only one person sometimes. But at least you didn’t date a douche-bag, and you chose someone of quality. That bodes well for your next choice.

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    • Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 12:47 pm

      “But I didn’t even mean it in a “its only about you” kind way, some sort of “fake altruism” where I get to feel all noble and good and make his decisions for him.”

      This. This is what I was getting at up above (sorry FireStar, my articulation is flagging today). The fake altruism, I’m-just-gonna-make-this-decision-for-you is the part that gets my back up. It adds insult to injury since he’s already breaking up with her, but he gets to play the martyr.

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      • oldie October 20, 2011, 1:07 pm

        No. He’s not playing the martyr. The relationship is no longer working for him and he is moving on, but had to give her an explanation. It sounds as though he may have pretty much given her the true reason couched in a way to not make the breakup her fault and to not say something that will deflate her ego or make her feel bad. This was a distinctly unequal relationship. He views himself as never having been in her league. As he becomes increaingly capable, this unequal relationship and his dependency upon LW as his crutch is going to something that causes at least subconscious resentment. A relationship cannot be healthy in the long term if the gf is also functioning as his mother and goad. She did everything she did with the best of intentions and seems to have really helped the guy. He may even still lover her, but can’t become truly independent and capable until he can exist without his crutch. It is healthy for him to move on. It may be healthy for LW as well.

        LW should try to figure out what she gained from this relationship. Was this a guy who was so stupendous in so many other ways that his laggard ‘loser’ ways and the need to continue to goad him in order for him to make any progress with getting his life sorted out was worth the effort. Or, is she a person who needs to be in an unequal relationship or needs to have a project — a guy who is a big fixer upper, whom she tries to mold. It is hard to see how such a relationship can ever be equal.

        LW needs to step back and let her now ex-bf grow into what he will become on his own. Perhaps they will get together again when he feels he is able to manage his life on his own. THen LW will learn whether or not she wants a more equal relationship with her and he will learn whether on not he can be her equal boyfriend, rather than a dependent.

        I wouldn’t sit idly by waiting for that to happen. LW needs to figure out what she wants in a bf and date some guys, whom she views as her equals — guys who she finds good enough as they are and doesn’t feel the need to remake into something that they currently are not.

      • Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 1:55 pm

        Even if he’s not exactly playing the martyr, he still needs to get down off his high horse.

        Since when does BF get to decide what’s right for her? Granted, he may be correct that this is objectively best for both of them, but he is not the sole arbiter of their relationship, let alone LW’s life. Each of them has the right to end the relationship at any time for any reason, but let’s not kid ourselves about his motivation: he did this for himself (as you noted) as much as for her.

        But that’s not what he said. He made this all about the LW, what’s best for her, what he thinks will make her happy. In reality, it’s about both of them and the fact that they’re not in the same place in their lives. This misrepresentation of the problem is what left LW feeling “sick and confused” and feeling responsible for ruining a perfectly good relationship. His intentions may have been noble, but he could have been so, so much more honorable about this.

        (sidebar: the sentence “I’m a loser. You can do better than me. You’ll thank me for this; I’m doing this to make you happy.” screams martyrdom to me, but I can understand a difference of opinion, especially if this isn’t his exact words)

      • oldie October 20, 2011, 2:21 pm

        Would it have been easier if he had said “I feel like I’m getting control of my life, but you won’t stop trying to direct me. I feel as though I can never become fully adult while I am with you. You helped me and I thank you for that, but I no longer need a crutch and don’t want to continue in this unequal a relationship. I am never going to be as motivated and successful as you will be, but I’m at a spot now that I’m comfortable with. I really don’t want to try hard enough to be better than I now am. I want to relax and enjoy life, with someone who is happy with and proud to be with me the way I currently am. I just don’t think that you will ever stop trying to fix me or that I will be able to fully relax and be comfortable in a relationship with you.”

      • Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 2:57 pm

        Yes, actually, I think that would have been better because:

        1. It’s accurate. He’s communicating the actual problem, not some bullsh*t excuse. How many letters have we gotten in the past month alone because the couple wouldn’t talk about the root of the probem?

        2. It’s fair. Or fairer than passive-aggressively dumping it all on the LW’s shoulders. He had a part in this; so did she. He acknowledges that he benefited from her support, while communicating that he no longer needs it. He expresses his feelings without trying to dictate to his partner, yet stands his ground on his own needs.

        3. It’s clear. She knows what’s up, she can use the lessons to hone her approach to relationships — maybe rid herself of a “rescue” complex, maybe learn to be flexible and allow relationships to change naturally, maybe learn to understand that sometimes people just grow apart and it’s no one’s fault. Him prevaricating, on the other hand, won’t in any way help her prevent this from happening again in the next relationship.

        I will grant you, it is hard. Breakups suck. Even when they are wholly justified, they are hard on all parties involved. Your (well-written and thoughtful, I might add) speech won’t keep her heart from breaking, but it will help her move forward with her life into the next relationship.

      • Calliopedork October 20, 2011, 3:15 pm

        Yes that would have been better, more honest and less martyrish.

      • 6napkinburger October 20, 2011, 4:26 pm

        The BF gets to decide what’s “right for her” if the FEELING that its not “right for her” is what makes it not “right for him.”

        I mean, it really does come down to a question of exactly what was said, which we’ll never know.

        If he LITERALLY (and I do mean literally) said the sentence “I’m a loser. You can do better than me. You’ll thank me for this; I’m doing this to make you happy” and walked out the door; then I’m with you. He’s putting it all on her in an unfair way.

        But if what he said was: “I’m a loser and I can’t stand that you can do better than me. You’ll thank me for this eventually, and you’ll be happier. I love you but I can’t do this to you anymore.” Then, while it seems like its about her, it’s really about him and how he’s feeling and it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t feel that way — his feeling that way is a good enough reason for breaking up with her (not that you need one), and a good enough reason to tell her and have that be enough not to be jerk. Maybe he could have phrased it better by clearly putting it in terms of himself, but we aren’t all literally poets in emotional situations (or literarily, for that matter). And if its the truth, then it also hits that whole “honesty” thing and I just can’t get behind the “he’s a jerk” thing.

  • Sarah October 20, 2011, 11:42 am

    ReginaRey made so many good points about this. Its second nature to want to take a “its either his fault or her fault” approach to break ups, but Regina actually managed to make it no ones fault, but still respect the LW’s pain. I think the LW can be proud that she was a huge contributing factor to helping a person she loves realize their potential, but I think its time she find a relationship where she doesn’t have to be the one doing all the work. I think once she gets over this break up, she’ll realize a little more how long its been since she got to be the one who needed a shoulder.

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    Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com October 20, 2011, 11:13 am

    Great response from RR. This will be a life lesson for you LW, —not that this was a negative experience or you did anything wrong but, in the future, you will probably find that you want an equal partner. Yes, partners will lean on each other at times. But they take turns as RR said.

    I agree with what others have said that the break-up is a real one and I think that your BF’s motivations are probably very blurry –and he may not fully understand them himself. While I don’t think anyone is suggesting he is altruistic here, I do think RR is correct when she says that this relationship has come to make him feel small and that its insurmountable at this point. He needs to figure some stuff out and see where it takes him.

    I want to add that its a very interesting pattern we see now in society where women are the leaders/breadwinners in the relationship–helping along their less-focused male partners, encouraging them to find their way, and then SOMETIMES ultimately losing them once they find their wings. 50 years ago we’d see this more frequently with the older male/younger female scenario. Now we’re seeing it more and more with women as the successful model –whether age is a factor or not.

    If anyone of you have not read “The End of Men” from The Atlantic last summer, you must stop what you are doing right now and give it a read. It is downright fascinating.

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    • Allissa October 20, 2011, 12:03 pm

      Yep – with more women than men in college for the first time, more women advancing in their careers than men, I suspect this will be a continuing and frustrating trend.

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    Seattle _lili October 20, 2011, 12:42 pm

    “But when you’re the main supplier of someone else’s drive, it can inadvertently do very negative things to the relationship. You become something of an authority figure, and your partner begins to feel like an employee who’s under-performing. It strips the unmotivated person in the relationship of their power, making them feel less-than-worthy, and in the process you lose the equality that’s critical to a healthy partnership.”

    THIS. I was in such a relationship, where he helped me deal and process everything the LW mentions-residual childhood issues, demanding education programs, horrible job situation etc. RR hit the nail on the head where even after most of these issues were dealt with, I always felt like I needed to be accomplishing more than what I had done to be ‘worthy’ of him. During the last year together I constantly felt like if I reached the next step, our relationship would be on equal footing again. Breaking up with him has done wonders for my self esteem and I do think that I can accomplish my career and education goals, but with me as my own motivator with a few good friends to help, but not be the leading force. My advice for the LW would be to be amicable about the breakup, its a timing issue for sure, but don’t put her life on hold, see what a more balanced relationship feels like. Good luck to you!

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  • HmC October 20, 2011, 1:05 pm

    LW- It’s possible that your boyfriend dumped you for the exact reasons he gave, in which case, Regina Ray has given you some great advice. Co-dependency is a difficult cycle to break and if that’s what’s really going on, it’s best that it ended.

    But you know what? Even if your boyfriend believes those were the reasons, it’s also possible that he just doesn’t love you anymore, or even that he’s met someone else. Honestly, people who are using a significant other as a crutch are very unlikely to let that person go unless they’ve found a replacement. I speak from experience here.

    I’m not trying to be harsh, but I’ve found that the reasons that one person finally gathers the courage to end a long term relationship are often vast and complex, sometimes not fully understood by the dumper let alone the dumpee. But ultimately, for all your intents and purposes and with the final goal of healing and being happy, you don’t really need to know right now *exactly* what was going through his head.

    Your ex-boyfriend knew he was going to dump you, for who knows how long, prior to doing it. Not that that makes him a bad person, it’s a big decision to end a long relationship and shouldn’t be taken lightly. My point is, he called you over, sat you down, and gave you an explanation for never wanting to see you again. Maybe the reasons he gave you are true, or partially true, or totally false. It really doesn’t matter. It’s what he wants, and you’ll know no peace until you just accept that. Break ups can be a one way street. There’s nothing you can proactively do here anymore, but go along your way and enjoy your life to the fullest. Maybe one day in the future your paths will cross again, and more truths will come to light. Maybe not.

    Live your life, focus on yourself, and let him go.

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    • Anthrocuse October 20, 2011, 9:38 pm

      this is a good point. I know this is likely, not the case, but the writer’s story reminded me a lot of something I went through in college. One night my (now ex) boyfriend didn’t show up to a date we had which never happened so I went over and found him in his bed crying. He was crying and saying I’m too good for him and that shit was going down at work and he didn’t know how he could look me in the eye and that we should break up. I stupidly convinced him to stay together. Of course it turned out that he had impregnated a client and had been cheating on me for months… just saying maybe just MAYBE he has a guilty conscious about something.

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  • Rachel October 20, 2011, 1:49 pm

    Great response RR.

    This reminds me so much of my college boyfriend. Similarly to this scenario, I was the responsible one, and the more stable one, and I drained a lot of my own energy into trying to help him. I can remember a few tearful conversations where he said he wasn’t good enough for me and I tried to convince him otherwise. But the thing is, by the time we broke up, he was so used to being miserable and he had no reason to change. Now that we are not together, it seems like he’s really gotten his life on the right track, and I am in a relationship with someone who supports me as much as I support him. So, maybe he wasn’t good enough for me, or maybe, really, we just weren’t good for each other in the long run.

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    theattack October 20, 2011, 4:17 pm

    I haven’t read any of the other comments yet, but I’ve been in his place before. It sounds like he sort of associated or used your relationship for help, and it was a place where he underachieved. Now that he’s progressed, he can’t stay in this relationship. He can’t stay in something where he was his old self. It’s like moving out of the house after a divorce. You’re a new person and can’t stay in the same place you were when the negative stuff was going on.

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    • oldie October 20, 2011, 4:58 pm

      I think that is likely correct.

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    bittergaymark October 20, 2011, 9:44 pm

    Yeah, my guess is that the guy just isn’t that into the LW anymore, but doesn’t want to hurt her, so is lamely and badly trying to place all the blame on himself.

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    fast eddie January 16, 2012, 2:54 pm

    I’m not sure about this situation. If he want’s to prove himself TO himself unassisted the best thing to do is let him. I’d have most likely not completed my college program without the support of several people, my GF among them. For that among other reasons we didn’t get married until I was nearly finished with the masters. That alone gave me great confidence and my lady backed me up all the way. There’s no way to express how greatfull I am.

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