First breakup aside, I am noticing some things about the relationship that make me feel unsure about our ability to stay together in the long run. We have very different political and world views. On the rare occasion that we do discuss these topics, it does not end well. I find myself trying to change his opinions and unable to accept the way he thinks. Not only do we not agree about many issues, but also I find that I am much more interested and curious regarding societal/moral/cultural issues and he prefers to ignore them. It bothers me that he does not care about the same things I do, and I find it difficult to discuss intellectual topics with him.
When we are not discussing political, societal or intellectual issues, we get along very well. He is a good listener, able to share his emotions easily, and very kind and caring. My question is: How important are the topics we have problems with? Is it paramount that your partner be intellectually stimulating?
I realize that these barriers are significant and cause me to lose respect for my partner and treat him less than he deserves. I am terrified of breaking up with him. My social circle is smaller than I would desire and I depend on him for a bulk of my emotional support. The last time we broke up it was devastating and very lonely for both of us. I worry that I will be too lonely after the breakup and not able to remain strong in my decision. With our six years of history, we know each other very well. I hate to think of causing pain to a person I really care about.
(Side note: The first time we broke up his mother told me she never thought we were compatible and that I had stolen the best years of her son’s life. I am very stubborn and hate to think that, if we break up for good, she wins.)
How do I get past all of these things and do what is best? — Obvious Questioner
Ok, well, first of all: If one’s late teens/early 20s are the “best years of one’s life,” just shoot me now. And if that’s actually true for Stan — that his best years have already passed and you robbed him of them, then you most definitely do not want to stay with him. People who peak in high school or college tend to be… well, they tend to be the kind of people for whom intellectual and cultural pursuits, advancements in society, world news, and politics hold little, if any, interest or value. In short: not your type.
But here’s the thing: The questions you’re asking to determine whether Stan is the right guy for you or not (he’s not) are the questions you need to ask yourself. Like: “How important are the topics we have problems with? Is it paramount that your partner be intellectually stimulating?” If the topics you have problems with are of zero concern to either of you: a) they wouldn’t be problems; and b) it wouldn’t be important if you disagreed because neither of you would place much value on those topics and they would be pretty irrelevant to you both. But that’s not the case, is it? Intellectual discussions and interest in the world are important to you. It sounds like not only do you disagree on things like political views, but also you don’t even talk about your viewpoints because it’s not very interesting to Stan/he doesn’t have much to say, and/or because talking about these things you disagree on causes tension in the relationship. If you were the type of person who could NOT discuss those things and feel perfectly fulfilled and well-matched in your relationship, you wouldn’t feel so unsettled and you wouldn’t be writing to me. You KNOW Stan isn’t right for you. You know these problems in your relationship — which aren’t so much “problems” as much as they are points of incompatibility — are insurmountable. You are just too different. You have different values, different interests, and different needs (that aren’t being met by each other).
Your relationship has run its course. It’s no longer a question of figuring that out; it’s a question of summoning the strength to end it and move on. I know it’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. If it were, that would mean the years you’ve spent together have been fairly meaningless. It’s a testament to your bond and the history you share that leaving him is sad. I get it. I’ve been in your shoes before. Four years with a guy who was very sweet and treated me well, but we were simply too different. We had different interests, different values, different needs. I knew in my heart that the relationship had to end — that I would never feel satisfied, content, or fulfilled, despite what a good person this guy was and how kind he was to me. I knew I would never get past feeling he somehow wasn’t “enough” for me (which wasn’t fair to him at all) and that I wasn’t right for him either. I felt all the same fears you describe — fear of loneliness, and of wavering in my decision, especially considering he was such an important facet of my emotional (and financial) support system. I’d forgotten how to be independent and was afraid I couldn’t re-learn, or that I would fail, or that I would regret my decision.
Here’s what happened: I was really sad for a few months, and then I wasn’t. I dated again, I got my own apartment and painted it all the colors I loved, I got a new cat, I made new friends (really great friends!), I got new hobbies, I tried different workouts and got in great shape, and I spent a lot of time alone and liked it. I also started a blog after we broke up, which got me writing every day and which led to freelance writing assignments followed by a full-time writing gig and eventually an advice column and my own website which you are reading right now. A year and a half after my ex and I broke up, I met my now-husband. He is a really, really good match for me. We share similar interests and values and political and world views. He’s kind and good to me and a great father and he makes me laugh. I am so relieved and happy that I risked some short-term loneliness and discomfort for the chance of making myself available for someone like him. I consider myself very lucky, but luck is only part of the equation. I also made some good decisions along the way – decisions that took some risk and felt a little scary but ultimately paid off.
I recommend making good decisions and taking some risks. Short-term loneliness and discomfort beats the pants off life-long discontentment.
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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.