Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

I have been in an intimate relationship with my girlfriend for three years. All this time I knew that she loved me much more than I loved her. However, she is kind, honest and smart, so I didn’t want to lose her and thought of giving more time to the relationship, hoping that my feelings would change as time went on. Now I think I was wrong. She doesn’t have many friends, and she couldn’t relate to my friends either.

She is very vulnerable and lives far from her family. She keeps repeating that I’m all she cares about. A few months ago we became roommates and that made things even more complicated. I feel she will be devastated if I break up with her. But for all that I admire her, I’m not in love with her.

How do I finish this? Now I’m moving to work in another country, so I thought I’d gradually tell her that the relationship isn’t working. But should I even do that, given her vulnerability and loneliness?

Eleanor says: Make it clear what you want to do: You want to leave. But we also know that the desire to leave is not always enough to make us actually leave. Many people have fallen into the space you are in right now; knowing that talking about a breakup will cause pain, we put it off and put it off, and while we’re functionally deceiving the other person about whether we want them, we tell ourselves that we’re acting for their own good. We convince ourselves of our irreplaceability. I just don’t know how she would handle it.

The truth is, the way to really hurt someone—to really do damage—is to stay when you don’t want to.

You don’t love this woman. You are clear with me and with yourself. And the thing is, she probably already knows. It’s not hard to tell when someone is genuinely excited about you—when they miss you and want you and feel excited about your future together. The genuine warmth of one person to another shines through the space between them. People know when that warmth isn’t there. It is a conspicuous absence. If the most you feel for her is “admiration,” she probably has already sensed a void in your relationship.

You are right that breaking up would hurt her. But so would the constant accumulation of nights spent wondering if she was imagining things. So every time you asked her to continue believing that you love her when it’s so clear and obvious that you don’t.

Besides, even if she never felt that something was wrong, try to think about what kind of life she could have. Right now, you’re saying that the only thing she cares about is someone who doesn’t love her back. You’re not doing her a favor by helping her stay stuck there. You write about her with respect and appreciation – those feelings should mean that you don’t want to prevent her from being with someone else who truly loves her, or at least that she doesn’t want to know the truth.

You might even find that leaving is a way of doing her a favor. Sometimes the wreckage of the life we ​​have is just what we need to win a better one. You may both be surprised at how long it can last.

Of course, she might instead fall apart and tell you that you did something terrible. But whatever happens, try not to confuse an understandable reluctance to have a difficult conversation with genuine concern for her well-being. If you’re worried about exacerbating her vulnerability and loneliness, staying is no less painful a choice.

Making such big life decisions requires courage, optimism and a great deal of hope: we are able to leave the things we know only because we can hope that the future could be better. Try to have that hope for your girlfriend as well as yourself.

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