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Was I selfish by moving? Do I owe him anything?

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  • #848390 Reply

    I’m dating this guy — we’ve been together for over 5 years. We’re recently long-distance. I finished my Ph.D. in 2018 and found a local postdoc with the goal of waiting for him to finish his Ph.D., but the local job was not even remotely a good fit and I found myself hating getting up and doing it every day (long story). So I found another postdoc that is a much better fit, but that is several states away. I started the new job recently and it is amazing and I’m getting used to the new place and feeling more comfortable here. (Also brought my dog, and she’s a huge help.)

    First I should say that I’m pretty sure I have to end things with SO for so many reasons. I don’t think it’s a healthy relationship, I don’t think he respects me — just so many reasons. But I have to be honest, I’m weak and conflict-averse to a fault. I haven’t had the guts to do it yet. In the general sort of abstract sense, I can totally say, “Yeah, we should break up.” When it comes to thinking about actually facing him over video and having the conversation, I feel like my whole brain and body just do an instant 180 and restart. Like if I force myself to start thinking about it I get panicky and the panic makes me say, “I don’t want to break up with him!” And I could tell him over text but somehow the thought of not knowing how he responds is almost worse, and then I feel bad because after like 5 years I probably owe it to him to do it “in person” right?

    Side note, I know I’m kinda messed up — have an anxiety disorder (OCD) among other things. I’m between therapists ATM due to job changing but I’m on medication and resuming therapy soon.

    Anyhow, that’s a whole other post in itself, I just wanted to clarify that I do think I should break up with him.

    For a good chunk of our relationship, like … 2.5 – 3 years, I’ve made more money than him. TLDR about our graduate program is that you generally “advance to candidacy” (become a Ph.D. candidate) around your 3rd year, and after that you get a slight pay raise and you gain the opportunity to teach courses over the summer for additional pay (beyond the summer funding we all receive). He’s never seemed to mind this and (jokingly, I thought) called me a “glucose guardian” (“sugar mama”) and “meal ticket.” I taught every summer after advancing to candidacy, once teaching two classes. He is actually about 10+ months behind in his program, on the verge of being kicked out, and still hasn’t advanced to candidacy, so he’s still pretty broke over summer because he can’t teach. (Mostly due to … laziness? I think he also has depression that he refuses to treat — he’s basically acknowledged that sometimes but will never discuss it with me and refuses to see a counselor, etc.).

    When I told him I got this job and that they asked me to start right away, his first response was that it would be “too expensive” to move during the summer. He wanted me to ask them to postpone the start date to the fall semester, end of story. (The ad listed start date as “fall semester or mutually agreed upon date.”)

    I said I did not want to ask them to postpone the start date and I was pretty sure it would be possible to move and start then.

    His response to this has overall been that I’ve “ignored his input” throughout (partially because I packed my stuff without his “help”), that I clearly just wanted him to butt out of my life, and that I’m selfish after he “put his life on hold for 4-5 years for me.”

    Now that part really rubbed me the wrong way. For one, it really fucking hurt. I really try not to be a selfish person. I mean, maybe I am and don’t realize it? But I sure as hell try not to be. For another thing, he started only applying to the one graduate school (that I was at) after we’d been dating for less than 6 months, and I did not ask him to do that even once. For a third, I would love to know how getting a Ph.D. while being supplemented by your girlfriend’s higher income counts as “putting your life on hold for 5 years.” But even having said this here, it still feels like he might be right, I can’t explain why.

    Along the process of moving, he did do one big thing for me. He drove me and my dog to the new place. Like I said earlier, I’m kinda messed up, and one thing is I really don’t like driving on freeways, especially not for long distances. I paid for our way there (gas + hotels, etc.) and his dad paid for his way back (they did a road trip type thing together), but he did all the driving. Which is a lot. Which I really do appreciate. And he was only slightly cranky about it (at least visibly).

    I had offered to help find a roommate for him, but he said he didn’t need help and asked me to take down the ads I posted online (they did get several responses). My job started in July and I was moving at the end of June. He found someone who was available starting August, and they offered to pay him a couple hundred dollars ($200-250) if he picked up some of their stuff when he drove me out (it was on his way back). My understanding, at least from me saying “That could help with rent for July,” and his saying something along the lines of “Yeah it would,” was that the money they gave him for bringing their things back would help him pay rent on the place for July. He told them he would do it, and when he asked, I did say I could probably cover it for him if he couldn’t manage it. I shouldn’t have said that … at the time I was pretty miserable and just wanted to make sure I could move ASAP, although that’s not an excuse.

    About four days ago, I get a video call from him, and he says to me, “Did you pay the rent here for July ($350)?”

    I said, uh, no, I don’t live there anymore, remember … ?

    Turns out that he didn’t feel like picking up his new roommate’s stuff, so he canceled.

    I said what about the money they were going to pay you?

    He said, “Oh, I completely forgot they wanted to pay and I wasn’t going to take their money anyway. Sorry babe! So you have the rent money?”

    I said not right now and he said he could cover it but it would leave him “unable to buy anything” and that I could pay him back and we hung up.

    His position is basically that I’ve been selfish and ignored his opinions, wants, and needs and should have pushed my start date back, and since I didn’t I should at least pay him $350 toward rent for July.

    My position is … confused because I can’t even figure out if I was selfish or not (although I hope I wasn’t). I’m pretty sure I don’t owe him $350. (Another long story behind this, but neither of us ever even signed a lease, and our landlord knows I moved.)

    I know I should break up with him anyway and maybe telling him I refuse to pay him $350 could be a good start. But it’s still really hard to even think about.

    Anyway … any tips or advice you all have would be greatly appreciated.

    TLDR: Does it sound like I’m selfish and he’s put his life on hold here? Because if so, I feel like I should feel bad and I “owe it to him” to give him the money. But if not, and if it would be crazy to pay him $350 (which I feel like it would be), how do I muster the guts to break up with him — and should I do it over video, text, email?

    #848391 Reply

    No, he didn’t put his life on hold for you. You’ve bankrolled him while he’s been working towards a PhD.

    Clearly, he should have picked up that person’s stuff and taken them on as a renter. I don’t think you technically owe him $350, but maybe you could pay him for the drive, break up and live with a free conscience knowing you did ALL you could. That’s if you’re feeling extr generous and don’t want to burn a bridge.

    If you do feel like he’s 1) taken advantage of you 2) lost out on opportunities because he’s too depressed and inactive to get them 3) would he do this to you? Would he stiff you July rent? I’m pretty sure he would.

    On to greener pastures. Congratulations.

    Video breakup sounds excruciating. But that might be worth it because you’ll know how he reacts. After five years, maybe he deserves a video or phone call. But if you find he’s generally abrasive and cruel in his comments, email and then block at will.

    #848392 Reply

    Honestly, he sounds like a manipulative, gas-lighting leech. Yes, you could have waited until Fall, as the position description allowed this but: 1) this is a guy you wanted to break up with, but lacked the self-confidence to have the discussion and so you seized this opportunity to force the issue and 2) had you waited until Fall, you would be putting your own life on hold in a job you hate and which isn’t giving you the post-doc experience you need.

    Yes, he probably is depressed. You’ve tried to help him with that, but he refuses to do anything. You helped him to find a new roomie, but he refused and asked you to take down your ad, despite having two responses. You can’t fix his laziness or depression. He has to fix himself and it sounds like he’s not the guy for you and you need to formally quit this relationship.

    On the other hand, you did leave abruptly, so your paying your share of July rent seems fair. Perhaps even August.

    Here’s what I’d do if I were you: send him the $350, but tell him you are breaking up with him, so that both of you can get a fresh start.

    And, btw, you did consider his input. His suggestion simply didn’t work for you. If the actual relationship was working for you, if you hadn’t already decided you needed to break up, if he had agreed to counseling and sought treatment for depression, if he was close to failing out of his PhD program and showed more incentive, if he wasn’t such a whiny manipulator, if your present job had anything at all to offer you and you felt at least neutral about it … then it would have made sense to accept his suggestion that you postpone the new job until September. Since none of that is true, you absolutely made the right decision. That wasn’t selfish. You have to consider your own needs, he certainly wasn’t doing that.

    #848397 Reply

    The two of you couldn’t come to a mutually satisfying solution. That is just part of being in a bad relationship. The two of you weren’t able to talk through the change in postdoc to come to a good resolution. You weren’t able to talk about him getting a new roommate. You also didn’t manage to talk about rent in a way that wasn’t ambiguous. You were wishy washy. Instead of saying that you were moving and he would have to come up with the rent for July you said you could probably cover it if he couldn’t so he’s hitting you up for the rent you said you could probably pay. I would go ahead and pay part of it since you said you could. I don’t think I would do the whole thing. He should have stopped and picked up the items for the new roommate. I’d think about giving him the difference between what he should have made during the trip and the $350. I’d say, “Hey, you should have stopped and picked up the stuff on the trip. That was worth $250. It’s your fault you didn’t do that. I’ll make up the difference so I’ll pay you $100. I’m not going to pay you for what you failed to do. I’ve also realized this relationship is not working for me. I’m breaking up with you. I hope you have a good life but it won’t be with me.” Then cut off all contact. You don’t have to stay on the phone or on Skype after telling him you are finished. You don’t owe it to him to manage his feelings. You don’t need to listen to him put you down or tell you that you are ungrateful or that you didn’t listen to him or that you are selfish. Once you tell him you are done then make sure you are done. Say goodbye and finish the call. I think it will be much less stressful if you realize your call can be as brief as a minute. Tell him what you have to say then cut it off. Done is done.

    In the future you have to learn to say when something isn’t working for you. Don’t agree to things like paying the rent after you are gone if you don’t want to and don’t intend to pay the rent. It’s okay to say that it doesn’t work for you or that you won’t be able to afford it or whatever it makes sense to say. You have to quit agreeing to do things if you don’t want to do them.

    #848399 Reply

    “Does it sound like I’m selfish and he’s put his life on hold here?”

    Not at all. It sounds like you are (and have been) trying to emotionally dispossess yourself from this relationship for some time. It seems you’ve been doing this in stages because it was emotionally impossible or impractical to end things before now.

    “Because if so, I feel like I should feel bad and I “owe it to him” to give him the money.”

    I find this statement a little troubling. Forget about validating his grievances because you two aren’t going in that direction.

    You didn’t ask his permission to move. You informed him you disagreed about the time that would be needed to move. Obviously, you both have been aware that you were taking the job and moving away, with or without him. There isn’t anything “bad” about your decision. You might not be a great partner to your boyfriend anymore, but you aren’t married and you are allowed (AND SHOULD) make choices for yourself based on your personal interest, especially if you know this relationship hasn’t been healthy for you.

    “He found someone who was available starting August, and they offered to pay him a couple hundred dollars ($200-250) if he picked up some of their stuff when he drove me out (it was on his way back). My understanding, at least from me saying “That could help with rent for July,” and his saying something along the lines of “Yeah it would,” was that the money they gave him for bringing their things back would help him pay rent on the place for July. He told them he would do it, and when he asked, I did say I could probably cover it for him if he couldn’t manage it.

    The tricky part is that neither of you has been willing to actually clarify what this move will mean emotionally and what it does mean financially, for July.

    It doesn’t sound like he’s been Mr. Wonderful in this relationship, nor does it sound like he will be hard up if you break up with him and refuse to pay. It was shitty for him to tell suggest you’ve used him anymore than he too advantage of you, but sometimes partners have hurt feelings when one person is emotionally parting ways and previous financial support is suddenly withdrawn. You own that you tend to avoid relationship conflict and that you did ask him to support you by driving you (and your dog) to your new location.

    Honestly, if you can afford to pay him the 350.00, I’d just pay it.

    “I said what about the money they were going to pay you?
    He said, “Oh, I completely forgot they wanted to pay and I wasn’t going to take their money anyway. Sorry babe! So you have the rent money?”

    I fully understand how his assuming attitude of easily using your money without seriously considering the $200 from his new roommate, might make you feel especially inclined to just be done. But because you said you would help for July, I’d do it along with telling him it’s the final straw in the relationship for you and that you no longer feel you are in anything akin to healthy partnership and you haven’t been for awhile, but you deeply cared for him and weren’t able to end things up until right now. Then give yourself a few months of “no contact” and extra personal support. You aren’t going to be able to stop him from thinking or feeling what he thinks or feels about it.

    #848405 Reply

    It’s bizarre to me that these conflicts are arising in a FIVE YEAR relationship. How did you guys handle any adult things that came up in those five years? First, pay him the money – it sounds like you unilaterally chose to move, and pretty quickly. (Again, not the kind of thing most people do when in an LTR.) Then break up with him – and yes, five years normally would merit an in-person talk, but this whole relationship feels more like a 6-monther, so who knows. At least Skype. Then get yourself a new therapist and figure out why this non-communicative, immature dynamic you two established worked for you for so long. I’d be worried about bad habits you’ve picked up that aren’t going to serve you well in your next relationship.
    But congrats on finishing the PhD! Hope the new postdoc is a good fit and you find some time to get your emotional house in order.

    #848406 Reply

    You are both in a relationship that is not making you happy so yes you should definitely break up. Its giving you anxiety and he is depressed, you would both be better placed to deal with these issues without the stress of your relationship.
    The money is irrelevant really, that’s just focusing on the small stuff that doesn’t really matter. You’re in a relationship where it sounds like you have different goals, work ethics etc, which can only work if you whole heartedly support each others decisions, want the best for each other and are willing to compromise. That’s what love is. It sounds in all honesty like you both have different priorities at the moment, which is not selfish, this relationship isn’t working for you and now would be a perfect time to start over in a new job, town, etc.
    Try not to feel guilty for doing what’s right for you and rationalize the anxiety. Everybody gets over break ups, they are not the end of the world, with out this relationship he may realise something and get help for his depression, you feeling anxious about ending things is due to guilt because you are a nice person but he is not your responsibility.

    #848411 Reply

    You’ve gotten some good responses but I didn’t read them all. I also have OCD, have since childhood. The panic you feel when you think about breaking up is just anxiety and it will go away after you break up with this asshole. He’s draining you. He couldn’t be bothered to pick up some stuff so he wants you to pay his rent?? No. You don’t owe him anything. Break up however you feel is best then block. Blocking is very important. Don’t let him use your OCD to convince you that you’re not thinking straight. He sounds like an ass who would use every weapon against you

    #848413 Reply

    I’m sure everyone else already covered this, but you need to get to a place where you can see this is about him, not you. Please know that low-quality shitty guys who know they suck will throw everything back in your face and try to make you think their problems are your fault. My ex-boyfriend used to do this. If I brought up anything that was bothering me, he’d immediately deflect and say it was because *I* did whatever. I remember him giving me crap about how he couldn’t do such and such because he was spending too much time doing stuff for me, which was complete bullshit, we were only even hanging out on Saturday nights, and I’d listen to him rant on the phone for an hour a day.

    Anyway, you do need to break up with this guy, he’s an ass, you’re not selfish, he’s projecting and deflecting on you. Do it by phone if you don’t want to be on video. But do it. Expect him to yell and cry and get really upset, and/or say awful things to you. Be prepared for that, stay calm, stick to your position that this relationship doesn’t work for you anymore, then block him on all forms of contact.

    #848417 Reply

    drop him and move on, give him $350 just to shut him up and help you sleep a little better at night.

    We live in the times of texting, people break up through texts all the time. Much easier for you to spill all your feelings and send it off and just wait for his reply saying w.e he wants and you have the final texts saying gooooood bye…

    #848419 Reply

    You did take his opinions into consideration. And you found that your needs outweighed them. THIS IS THE RIGHT ANSWER. Your needs come first. You shouldn’t have to stay in an awful job because he needs more time to get his shit together to make progress in his career. You shouldn’t have to downplay your achievements because it would magnify his inadequacies. Fuck. That. Noise.

    What he’s actually saying is “You didn’t put me first and I don’t like that”

    He wouldn’t do the same for you. He’s a jerk and a user. Dump him.

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