My Partner Is Terrible And We Haven’t Had Sex In Years… Now What?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg...

Q: My partner and I have been together for ten years, living together about half that time and in a medium-distance relationship for the other half. For our tenth anniversary, she proposed. I got a job in the city where she had bought a place and was able to move back in with her a few months ago. Seems perfect, right? Maybe not.

In the time we’ve been together, things have changed a lot. We met in college and moved in together shortly after. We relocated for grad school. Or, I should say, my partner chose where she wanted to go, informed me, and I followed because I was too afraid of long-distance. Conversation and connection between us devolved somewhat when I moved away to continue my education. We didn’t keep in touch as much, and without face time with each other, it was hard to share everything that was going on in our lives. During this time, my partner made several big life decisions (moving/staying for jobs while I was away, buying a home, etc.) without me—this has been a point of conflict. More than six years into dating, we visited her family out-of-state for the holidays. I was introduced as “a friend from college.” While she later relented and has been more open about our relationship to others, it only goes so far. We’ve had conversations about my preferred pronouns repeatedly over the years, but she still doesn’t use them, saying she “forgets.” We haven’t had sex in years. The emotional intimacy isn’t there to support the physical.

She proposed, even though we had discussed waiting and making it more “mutual.” I told her I wanted to wait, to be sure of how things would work once I moved in; she told her friends and coworkers that I said “yes.” It’s made the transition to living together again somewhat fraught. She has a life in this city already, and I know no one, but when I’ve tried to rely on her for support as I struggle to readjust, none is forthcoming.

We’ve been in couples therapy since just before I moved back in, but we seem to be making no progress. It’s always the same conversation during sessions, and no conversation afterward. I try to make my needs known and to be clear and concise, often putting things down in writing to facilitate conversation later. Yet nothing has changed. I worry that our relationship, as it is now, can’t transition into a marriage, but I also worry about jumping to conclusions or too hastily dismantling a life together that we’ve spent years constructing. How long should we (or I) keep trying? Should I really “throw away” ten years together? How do I figure out a timeline for moving forward or moving out?

—Ultimately Not Seeking an Unhappy Relationship Ending


I’m not in the business of telling people whether or not they should be with their partner. As delicious as it would be to drop that hammer for someone, it would be unfair. I get such a teeny little peek into very complex relationships. I get one brief side of a two-sided story. It’s just not a good idea to pretend I can make that call.

But, honey. I mean, I can make an exception.

You list very big examples of ways your partner has disrespected your wishes throughout the entire length of your relationship. Her habitual disrespect has been coupled with constant requests for you to sacrifice, while offering no concessions of her own.

I understand the unwillingness to “throw away” the past ten years. It can feel like so much wasted time. But the real waste would be dumping more time and energy into something that hasn’t worked even after a decade of investment. You’re not being hasty.

Sure, maybe I am getting just one side of the story here, as with any other letter. I mean there’ve gotta be good times, things you like about her, reasons you stick around. But it’s pretty telling that you picked the details you did, that you describe the relationship the way you have. She won’t even use your preferred pronouns? We’re talking the basics of human respect here.

So while I could tell you to get out, I don’t think I have to. Because it feels as though you’ve already decided. So trust yourself on this one.

Get out of there.

—Liz Moorhead


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  • Amy March

    Break up. It’s not hasty, it’s years overdue. Do not wind up accidentally married because you were scared of making a change.

  • emilyg25

    Leave. Leeeeave. You deserve someone who loves and respects you and listens to you and refers to you by your preferred pronoun and builds a life WITH you. These are pretty basic things. You’re not throwing those years away. You’re acknowledging that you tried to make it work and it didn’t. There’s something to learn from that, and there’s no sense in throwing what could be good years after bad.

    • Pickle

      Seriously, I would tell this person to leave even if the problem was JUST that the partner won’t respect their pronouns. As the partner of a trans person that just made me break out in ragehives.

      • Yeah that part really stood out to me, like NOPE absolutely not.

      • Transnonymous

        Exactly. I wouldn’t even be friends with someone who purposefully didn’t use my pronouns. LW needs to leave.

        • Pickle

          Right? Slipping up a couple of times during the early parts of someone’s transition as you get used to it, and apologizing profusely? That’s one thing. YEARS of just going ‘lol forgot’? Unacceptable in a friendship and beyond horrible for the person who is supposed to be your #1 supporter.

      • Jan

        For real though. That is some epic bullshit I could not abide.

  • PW

    “Should I really “throw away” ten years together?”

    Don’t think of it like that – every relationship is a lesson, and helps us grow and figure ourselves out and become who we really are. She has helped you do that (one way or another). Your time together will not be wasted, but it does sound like it needs to come to an end so that you can begin the next phase of your life, and discover more about who you are.

    In other words, she has helped you learn enough about yourself to know that she is not the right person for you anymore. It’s a valuable thing. Use it.

    • AmandaBee

      This. But also? Those ten years are already gone. You can’t throw away time that’s already been spent, you can only take the lessons you learned and apply them to the future.

      What you can do is decide whether you want to spend the *next* ten years of your life on this person, or whether you want to seek something and someone better. And, girl, there are a lot of better people out there. You deserve to make your own choices moving forward. It doesn’t sound like your partner is willing to let you do that as long as you’re with them though.

      • “You can’t throw away time that’s already been spent” — Love this.

      • Zoya

        Both of these comments. Hard agree.

  • Another Meg

    It is so much harder to leave when you’re married. Get out before then and save yourself a bunch of money and heartache.
    And if you don’t already have one, get a therapist who you see on your own. This stuff is tough and professional support can really make a difference.

    ETA: I forgot to mention how very sorry I am that you’re in this situation. It sucks and you are worth more.

  • sage

    You deserve to be with someone who treats you so much better than this! Get out now, you can do it! Don’t worry about the last ten years, you have your whole future ahead of you :)

  • Violet

    First off, look into the concept of the “sunk cost fallacy.” It’s a mental trick we all fall prey to at times, and it keeps us from moving on when we should.
    Secondly, how about a mental exercise: if you weren’t already in this relationship, hearing it described as you are now, would you ever sign up for it? Nope. Would you encourage a friend to enter into a relationship like this? Nope.
    And third. Yes, everyone knows relationships can be hard at times. But the effort is worthwhile when the relationship is good. This is not only *too* hard, but it’s not even for a particularly strong relationship. The cost is too high, and the benefit too low (or nonexistent?). Exit yourself.

    • ART

      Oh you beat me to it! Yep, this is exactly what I thought of (link above…) Not to boil everything down to economics, but on the other hand it IS a way of understanding behavior that is pretty much all about cutting through the crap!

  • Sarah E


  • Katharine Parker

    When I read the headline, I expected this to be a variation on the advice column classic, “my partner is great except we never have sex/our sex life is terrible.” Then, the advice is always about the complexity of untangling and prioritizing physical intimacy in a relationship, and the comments are usually judgments on how much each person values sex in their own lives.

    This question is not that. To echo everyone else, break up.

    • I wish I could tell you the amount of time I spent trying to title this in a way that wasn’t a paragraph.

      • Violet

        “Should I Stay, or Should I Go?”

        • Not bad. Might be read less, however. Looking at data on what y’all click on, and then stay to read, is eye opening. I don’t get to write titles my way anymore, basically.

          • Violet

            I know, I sympathize with the need to use click bait titles to keep up with the changing times. I just figure you can never go wrong with classic rock.

      • Katharine Parker

        “My partner is terrible and we haven’t had sex in years” is, perhaps, overdetermined.

        • Probably true, probably overdetermined.

          • Chris

            What was the original title?


          • Katharine Parker

            Loling at this change.

      • Megan

        “My partner proposed, I said I’m not ready, she told everyone I said yes”

        • Megan

          Also misleading about the overarching issue of the letter but the most wedding-y part of it?

          • Amy March

            Like, this situation is so bad that doesn’t even jump out, and it’s absolutely horrifying.

          • I mean the overarching issue is this person is not a good partner. But it’s not my job to call that in the title, always. The issue is there ARE SO MANY ISSUES, where to start?

        • If you guys haven’t figured it out yet, writing title is hard.

    • Violet

      I thought it was gonna be the lead in the Dear Prudence today, writing into both columnists!

      • Katharine Parker

        I mean, it’s a classic for a reason!

        Now I’m reading that letter and feeling sad for the LW.

        • Katharine Parker

          This advice holds for that letter and this letter: “Your letter broke my heart. You deserve so much more than what your wife is giving you, and I hope you can find it someday.”

        • Violet

          I’m way more used to that format–where the person describes their ambivalence about the relationship because there are good and bad things happening, and they can’t figure out how to weight them. In this letter, there are only bad things. It just seems so straightforward, I hope LW can take some time to figure out why they decided to stay in a relationship that was so clearly bad for so long.

          • ssha

            It really struck me that LW didnt even list any reasons they wanted to stay, not “but I love her so much!” Etc.

  • Katie

    While I have lots of sympathy for you and your situation, it is really bothersome when somebody says “You are abused”, “you are mistreated”, “you deserve better”. Yes, the partner in this story sucks. But you know what? YOU decided to stay with her throughout the years. YOU decided to move when she moved. YOU decided to endure everything she’s been doing to you. The only reason she does that? She doesn’t love you. As simple and heartbreaking as it is. You have to accept it and move on. Keep some self-respect and rebuild your life. You will be much stronger without her, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
    ETA: I don’t think that the LW is a bad person and she doesn’t deserve better. She does! But I just can’t justify a person’s decision to stay with a bad partner for YEARS. Yes, she can be blindsided and hope that it will get better overtime. But all along she had the power to stand up and walk away, which is what everybody is telling her to do (rightfully so!)

    • Violet

      I think leaving this relationship will allow LW to take some time to figure out why they were okay with being in a relationship with someone who clearly does not care about them, for so long.

      • Katie

        I think the answer is not that complicated: because LW loves their partner, and it was more important than the (absence of) partner’s love for them.

        • Violet

          I dunno, I have never loved someone who didn’t love me back as much as I loved them. Maybe my ego’s too big? But once I get the sense I’m in it more than the other person, I get turned off, like, immediately.

          • Katie

            Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for most people (although it should be like you describe it). It’s the opposite: when your ego’s too big, you stay no matter what, just because you imagine a love just as big as yours that the other person has for you, even if they don’t. People with normal self-esteem and ego do not stay in relationships where they aren’t valued.

          • Amy March

            Yes, they do. Normal people make mistakes. Normal people judge situations incorrectly. Normal people don’t always see the big picture.

          • ART

            *waves hands*

            It’s been 7+ years since I left and I can still barely admit to myself (let ALONE others, even my now husband) some of the things I put up with in my last relationship. It can be really, really hard to see things from an outsider’s perspective or, obviously, from the perspective of hindsight. I mean, I’ve been hit HARD years later realizing that something I thought was “uncool” was actually, like, violent.

          • Jan

            “People who are abused do not give their power away. It is taken from them by their abuser.”

            Someone told me that once, about a year and a half after I left, and it was the thing that helped me start to even consider trusting my own judgment again (a process I am still working through, and it’ll be six years since leaving in about two weeks). It’s just not as simple as not leaving when things get bad. Abusers make sure of that.

          • Oy Vey

            I’ve had that realization too. My ignorance probably made it easier for me to leave than it should have been. And thank God for that.

          • Agreed. I am guessing the devaluing might have happened slowly over time, and that makes it harder to see…

          • Violet

            Maybe LW will read what you wrote and it will resonate with them. I don’t know LW, and I certainly don’t know the particulars behind why they stayed in an unfulfilling relationship for a decade. I was just thinking that maybe a silver lining of this break up for LW could be to figure some of this stuff out so it’s less likely to happen again.

          • Megan

            I don’t think most people enter a relationship where they’re invested way more than the other person. That change happens over time. One person starts getting bored and unsure about the relationship where the other person maybe senses things aren’t perfect but works twice as hard to make them work. Then the imbalance grows. After awhile, only one person cares, but the shift was gradual enough that the person in love doesn’t realize how toxic it has become.

          • Violet

            I could totally see this as happening, and honestly, most 10-year relationships involve so much gradual change over time, you can end up in a scenario you never would have chosen at the outset. It’s like boiling frogs, or whatever. Raise the temperature just slightly enough over time, and they’ll be boiled before they realize what’s happening.

            I don’t know what’s going on with LW. I wasn’t really trying to theorize with my original comment; I simply think this might be an opportunity for them to work it out (either on their own, with a therapist, friend, etc.).

          • Adriana_Paula

            Yeah, some people are like that, and some people have more fix-it/savior/martyr energy; I’m the latter kind, and it takes me a while to extricate myself from relationships because my default setting i, “If I just try a LITTLE harder…”

          • Violet

            This is exactly why I think exploration could be beneficial to LW. Katie’s original idea might be right–that it’s as simple as one person loving the other more. But there can be all kinds of dynamics going on. You mention a perfectly reasonable one, Megan suggested another that’s just as plausible, and Amy March points out that people do things that are hard to understand from the outside all the time. I’m not trying to suggest this happened to LW for any particular reason, just that LW can take some time in the aftermath of the breakup to start to figure it out for themselves.

    • Amy March

      People stay with bad partners for all kinds of reasons, and being a bad partner to someone doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love them. That’s why leaving is hard? Because there is usually good with bad.

      • Violet

        Heh, yes, “usually” being the operative word.
        The only positives LW describes are at the very top of the letter, and they’re all more or less superficial. Not that LW is superficial. I mean that things like being together for ten years, a proposal, and moving in together might look good on paper, but they actually say very little about the quality of the relationship. Yet LW says this should sound “perfect.” I wonder how much LW became fixated on external markers of the relationship rather than what it actually felt like to be in it.

    • I mean, “value yourself and move on” and “your partner mistreated you and you deserve better” are not mutually exclusive statements. I’m all for personal responsibility, but for anyone in the process of developing the part of self-respect that is recognizing when other people are mistreating you, it can be really helpful to have other people reflect that a situation isn’t cool.

      • sage

        Recognizing “you deserve better” IS learning to “value yourself” so that you can move on. I’m happy to be that kind of sounding board for the LW. Lord knows I needed someone to tell me the same thing when I was caught up in a bad relationship in the past!

    • Oy Vey

      “Yes, the partner in this story sucks. But you know what? YOU decided to stay with her throughout the years. YOU decided to move when she moved. YOU decided to endure everything she’s been doing to you.”

      Why the victim blaming? Why so harsh to someone who is wrestling with a difficult decision? Why do you make it out to be a moral failure on the part of the person who is wrestling with whether to stay or go? While “just go” is simple to say, it’s a lot harder in multiple ways than you (luckily for you; I’m assuming you’ve never been embroiled in a relationship like this one) seem to grasp.

      From personal experience, I can say that when you’re in a relationship like this one, you hold onto the good things – even crumbs of good things, even the fact that he didn’t have anything mean to say to you that day – to get you through the bad stuff; it’s a survival mechanism.

      Also, this type of comment feels wholly counterproductive for many reasons, but the one I want to focus on is how shaming it is. If LW is anything like me, they already feel this way and amplifying the shame does nothing but create a negative focus inward.

      It’s been a year (shy one week) since I left my emotionally abusive ex (yaaay!). I stayed with him for 7 years. It was totally a frogs in boiling water situation, I can see now. But I couldn’t see when I was in it. I am actively ashamed of having stayed that long because I have a MENSA IQ and feel like I’m too intelligent to have been stupid enough to have not seen the signs earlier. No where did I ever feel I deserved being treated badly, but I thought that sometimes relationships take work and compromise and I was FINE with all the pieces of straw being loaded on my back… until my back broke.

      Even though it’s been a year, I still hate talking about it – not because of the abuse, but because I was blind to it.

      LW – be kind to yourself. Process everything here (I know first hand it can hurt to hear strangers to tell you to break up with someone who you love deeply despite everything) and then make the decision. The pain of ending a relationship is temporary even though it’s soul deep (even if it’s with someone who is making you stressed and unhappy). And believe me, eventually, you’ll come out the other side SO much happier.

      • ART

        “Even though it’s been a year, I still hate talking about it – not because of the abuse, but because I was blind to it.”

        So much this. The shame I still feel not because X happened in our relationship, but because X happened *and I didn’t run screaming for the hills that very moment* or at least realize sooner that it was time to go.

        I’m so glad you’re still here talking about this with us, Oy Vey!

        • Oy Vey

          I’m glad you all tolerate it (at the very least :) )… it’s therapeutic for me to be open about the situation with the veil of anonymity in hopes that someday I won’t feel shame (that I’m ashamed to feel because I know the way he treated me wasn’t my fault…so many layers haha!) and might be ready to be more open with people IRL so I can be a resource/help someone else exit or process a similar situation.

          • ART

            <3 Yeah, the aftermath can be mind-bending.

      • sage

        Thank you for writing this and, as always, being so vulnerable with us. The comment didn’t sit right with me either and you absolutely nailed the reason.

      • I think people really sometimes don’t grasp how easy it is to become embroiled in an abusive relationship. It happens to smart people, it happens to people with solid self-esteem, it happens to people with good judgement. The mechanisms of abuse exploit things in our psyches that almost everyone is vulnerable to, and at the risk of some low-key hyperbole, telling people to be ashamed of that is telling them to be ashamed of being human.

      • Jane

        Thank you for bringing awareness to this extremely relevant topic which is domestic abuse and for sharing your story with us. It really makes us think that we all can be victims of this. Please don’t take this in the wrong way, but I think you’re projecting a bit too much of your personal experience into LW’s story. We don’t have enough information to say if she is victim of abuse (these are strong words who should not be used lightly for the sake of keeping their credibility), though it is more than clear that their relationship is dysfunctional. Though I disagree with Katie in many ways (not only in he main comment but also in some comments below), I think she has a point: in adult relationships people make choices (free or coerced), and in the same way she has decided to be with her partner so far she can decide and actually leave any moment she wants.

      • Lisa

        Thank you for writing this comment. When I tried to talk about my emotionally/verbally abusive ex with a friend in college, she said, “I would never let that happen to me.” Well, sure, no one goes into a relationship thinking that they’ll tolerate abuse. As you said, it’s a frog in water situation where the abuser tests the waters for a while before turning the dial up to 11.

        Telling the LW that she made bad choices isn’t going to help her situation; if anything, it’s going to send her back to the abuser so she can prove that it isn’t her fault and that she can make the relationship work. I know for me, one of the things that sent me back to my abuser over and over again was people telling me that I was wrong for staying with him. The more they said it, the more I felt the need to prove them wrong and that I hadn’t made a terrible decision. It’s difficult to admit that for anyone–and especially for someone who’s been constantly ground down by their partner.

      • Mrrpaderp

        I agree with both you and Katie. In an abuse situation, you’re right, you just can’t say well you chose to stay; it’s so much more complicated when abuse is involved. Two things stuck out as potentially abusive – not using the correct pronouns and not taking “maybe” for an answer in the proposal. This smacks of someone who sends the message over and over – you are not worthy. Or maybe LW’s partner is just horrendously myopic about these two issues and nothing else. Idk. There’s not enough here to say that abuse is happening but there’s not enough to say there isn’t, either.

        However. I take Katie’s points about moving in light of how LW talks about it. LW makes it out like partner is awful for “dictating” where to move for partner’s grad school. I just… don’t think you make decisions about where to go to grad school based on your college SO. Obviously not everyone agrees with me. But I don’t think it’s fair for LW to continue NOW to fault their partner for putting her career first when they were 21. Holding onto resentment that long is going to kill any relationship. I think LW should take some time to examine why this is still bothering them so many years later and, if they really couldn’t let go, why they didn’t leave partner a long time ago.

        • Katie

          Exactly. Why is LW faulting the partner on THEIR OWN decision to move with the partner, is puzzling to me. They outright say “I was afraid of a long-distance relationship”, and this is why they moved, NOT because the partner made them to. The relationship is not some creature that demands sacrifices, it is made by two people, and one of them made a decision to go to a grad school (putting it above the other person’s needs and wishes), and LW went along with it (because she needed the partner more than the partner needed them).

      • Katie

        First of all, I am sorry you were in a bad relationship for 7 years. I am glad it’s over and you found the courage and strength to move one.

        Secondly, I am bothered by how often the word “victim” gets thrown around these days. A gay teenager bullied by peers is a victim. A girl raped at a party (or anywhere else) is a victim. A woman with a sick child, because of whom she can’t work, married to an abusive man is a victim. But a person who willingly moved to another state to be with their partner? Nobody really made them make any sacrifices for their partner. They say, “and I followed because I was too afraid of long-distance.” They were scared of losing their partner who chose to go to school to another state. Yes, it’s a dick move (to just inform somebody you’re involved with, about a life-changing decision), but nobody owes anybody their love. If a person makes a dick move, it means only one thing – you’re not important to them. Period. The LW continued to make decisions to stay in the relationship longer (move again, tolerate the partner’s behavior during the holiday family visit, brush off the wrong pronouns).

        Lastly, LW says “I know no one, but when I’ve tried to rely on her for support as I struggle to readjust, none is forthcoming”. Yes, it is natural to expect some support from your S.O. during hard times, but again, no one owes their love and support to anybody (except mothers to their children). I imagine the LW is a grown-up, and I am very curious as to what kind of support she really needs in a new city (is it a foreign country altogether? does she have a job? does she have hobbies? is she trying to adjust, or is she only relying on her partner to help her in everything?)

        Honestly, I don’t see their partner as an abusive person, and LW as victim. The former just makes decisions for her own life, and LW goes along with them, on their own free will. I don’t believe that all people are inherently *bad* or *good*, it just depends whether they love somebody or not. And in this situation, it is clear to me that LW is not loved.

    • Jan

      While I agree that LW needs to move on and perhaps needs people here to be direct with her about that, I’m struggling to see how your proclamations in this thread that people who stay in bad situations clearly have no self esteem, or that they have abnormal egos, or that LW is to blame for the way their partner treats them, accomplish anything helpful here.

  • Agree with Liz, as painful as it will be to bounce, it sounds like your partner is completely disregarding your needs both as an individual, and is disrespecting your autonomy.

    One thing that might help with the “sunk cost” feeling is to remember that ending your relationship doesn’t invalidate any of the positive aspects if your relationship or the good times that you had. Just because you don’t marry someone does mean that your relationship was a waste… And TBH if a chunk of it *was* a waste of time, the fix for that is finding someone that values you going forward, not sticking it out in hopes that you can somehow rewrite the past.

  • Sara

    Your partner has disregarded your wishes for years and made sweeping decisions on your behalf. I think you know that isn’t likely to change. Leave now, move somewhere you enjoy, keep the memories and discard the rest.

  • Jessica

    A good friend of mine was in a relationship like this (like, his gf came to town and he didn’t tell any of us because she didn’t really feel like meeting anyone he was friends with), and (having never met her) we all wondered what it was that was keeping them together. He came back from a trip with her and said that she pulled back on them moving in together (after 4 years long distance) and said if he moved to her city he would need to get his own apartment.

    Even after that, after he acknowledged the emotional subterfuge and the shitty treatment, it took him months to break up with her. Even though he was so clearly into another girl. Even though, even though, even though. It just took him awhile to work up the grit and do it.

    But he is happier now. Much, much happier. Best of luck LW, and I hope you’re happier soon.

  • Eenie

    The partner sounds like she won’t make any sacrifices for the LW and the relationship, and it sounds like the LW has sacrificed a lot for the partner and the relationship. This imbalance would not sit well with me – my husband and I both make sacrifices for the greater good of us. They aren’t always fair or equal, but we do our best and both do our part. We try not to have either of us feeling like a martyr. Not all couples function like this, but it sounds like the LW knows what this relationship consists of and needs to choose to end it.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    How much longer do you want to feel the way you do now?

    • Violet

      Oooooo, this is good.

    • Yes. Plus, a break-up is a lot less messy than a divorce.

    • Lisa

      Yes, this is one of my favorite questions that I hear Dan Savage ask on his podcast. Assuming that your partner doesn’t change, LW, how long do you want to deal with her awful treatment of you? Another year? 10? 6 decades? Life is long, and it’s never too early to let yourself be treated well.

  • theteenygirl

    Not all relationships that end are failed relationships.

    But sometimes relationships do need to end, for one reason or another. Or many reasons, as mentioned in this letter.

  • Transnonymous

    Relationships are hard. Basic decency is not. You don’t deserve to be treated this way.

  • Megan

    Dear LW, oof. I feel you. I just got out of a five year relationship (not entirely by choice although I now see it was for the best) and while I have been having feelings of extreme loss, wondering what I could’ve done better/differently, anger at how I was disrespected, and complete confusion over how I “wasted” half my twenties but never saw the signs of why it wasn’t working, I also feel a deep sense of relief (that I even feel guilty for having, like it somehow cheapens how much I love/loved my partner of all that time). I thought he was the one, I thought we’d be engaged soon, I thought he would make the sacrifices for me that our relationship needed to work, I thought he would agree to counseling when things got hard, I thought, I thought, I thought. But even though I was willing to make a million accommodations and he really wasn’t in the end, I’m so grateful that he knew when to say “enough is enough – we aren’t making each other happy, you deserve to be happy and that requires you to not be with me” (in a nutshell). I now have a blank slate as my future when I thought I knew what my future held, but that’s been surprisingly liberating as I start to pick up the pieces. I don’t know if that’s similar enough to your situation to be helpful, but it’s therapeutic for me to share and hopefully makes you feel a little less alone if you do decide to move on with your life. Also something I’ve heard is that just because a relationship ended doesn’t mean it failed and doesn’t mean you wasted that time. You learned, you grew, you became better because of the work you put into it – and now you deserve to find someone who is equally committed to you and your happiness. I hope I find that again some day, and I hope you do too.

    • Violet

      This is so compassionate. I hope LW can take some comfort in seeing that, while this is hard, it will get easier with time.

    • Adriana_Paula

      Right there with you: I just got out of a three+ year relationship, and had those same thoughts/hopes/expectations and that same outcome. Take good care!

    • Pannorama

      I really want to second the idea that leaving a relationship isn’t a failure. Every relationship ends at some point (either you break up or someone dies, which sounds really morbid but I, personally, find very comforting). Leaving relationships is a natural, if difficult, part of being a person. You grow, you learn more about yourself and your boundaries, and you give yourself the opportunity for a more fulfilling life.

    • “…you deserve to find someone who is equally committed…”
      This is such a beautiful thing to experience in a relationship, and I hope LW decides they want to experience this too.

    • Christine

      “I now have a blank slate as my future when I thought I knew what my future held, but that’s been surprisingly liberating as I start to pick up the pieces.” My five year relationship just ended and I’m definitely waiting for the liberating part. Right now it’s a whole pile of cranky and trying to find the pieces to pick up. I appreciate your openness and honesty.

  • Liz

    You are not in a relationship. You are in a middle-school-level friendship gone sour – sometimes too close, sometimes non-existent, never healthy, never a parternship. You deserve more. For the sake of everyone in this community who has ever stayed in a relationship too long, goooooooo.

  • Her Lindsayship

    I agree with everyone else’s advice to get out of this relationship and give yourself time to reset. Also, in answer to your question: “How do I figure out a timeline for moving forward or moving out?” – the time is now. It’s never going to feel like the right time, but sooner is going to be easier for you. Try not to get caught up in finding just the right words to tell her, or just the right circumstances/surroundings for it. It’s going to suck no matter what, but it’s going to suck more the longer she keeps pretending you’re engaged. So sorry you’re going through this, LW, but you’re the only one who can make it better.

    • Jan

      Yes, just leap. Call on whatever support system you need, pack your things, and go. Even if it means staying in someone’s guest room while you get on your feet. Just do it.

  • ART

    I agree with everything here and just want to leave this for you, LW:

    Maybe those are terms that will resonate with you, maybe not. But you have an opportunity here to *avoid the future cost* of this crappy relationship, and it sounds like we all think you should take it.

  • mjh

    LW, I’m sincerely sorry that you’re in this situation.

    The letter you wrote seems to indicate that either this relationship isn’t giving you hardly anything that’s good, or that (at least at the time of your writing) none of the good that this relationship gives you feels worth dealing with all of the bad the relationship is giving you. We’ve certainly heard enough to know that there’s plenty going on in this relationship to make you drop it and never look back. If that’s what you want to do but you’re having a hard time getting yourself to actually make the move, I’d like to echo previous comments that there’s no point worrying about having wasted the time that has already passed, and that staying in a miserable situation for longer won’t make it have been worthwhile time. If you’re anywhere near as across the board unhappy and internally done with this relationship as you sound in the letter, it sounds like you know what you need to do and I wish you the very best in dealing with the transition out of this relationship. Take care of yourself and lean into your support system.

    Just saying this for the sake of thoroughness- if there’s a lot of foundational stuff that didn’t make it into your letter and we all have the wrong impression of what you’ve been feeling, experiencing and doing, I understand that it could not be as clear as it seems to us now. If you feel that is the case, I strongly suggest working through your thoughts with a therapist and figuring out what you feel and want and need. Even if the relationship isn’t as one sided as it seems to us from reading this letter, the fact that you summarized the situation to us this way (and had those facts available to you) tells us that there are very major problems afoot at the very least.

    Tl;dr- it sounds like you already know/think this relationship needs to end. If so, do what you need to do. It’s scary, but you’ll be all the better for it in the end. If that doesn’t resonate, even if we’re not seeing the whole of things, this situation isn’t okay and at the very least needs to change significantly. Don’t be afraid to get some help figuring things out.

  • Jan

    It doesn’t seem this has been a real and equitable relationship for some time, so I’m not totally sure what you think you’re “throwing away”. The opportunity for her to show you all the ways she is a terrible partner? The many ways in which she devalues you?

    I was with my ex for eight years, and I wish I’d listened to the gnawing feeling I had in the back of my head that things weren’t right, and ended it sooner. He was a bad guy and we were bad together, and a new and single (even if scary) life was so much better than whatever farce of a partnership I was pretending we had.

  • ManderGimlet

    I’m so sorry LW, sounds like you’ve really been put through the ringer! I agree with a lot of what has been said by Liz and the other commenters, but I think you already agree too. Now it’s a matter of getting your head and heart to align. One thing I would suggest asking your partner as a starting point to determining “the future” (or your relationship and/or your life outside of it) is to ask her what her end game is with proposing? Why does she want to get married? Up to now, she doesn’t seem to have really had a place for you in her life and has made no effort to make one for you. Who are you to her, what does she want? I think her actions up to now are good indicator, but knowing how she sees her own actions and the justifications behind her choices can go a long way to exposing the motivations of this person and may also help to separate the feelings that you did something wrong or are in some way not “enough” for her.

    No matter what you choose, stay together or leave, PLEASE put the brakes on this engagement. That act alone may spur some long needed emotional honesty from your partner, but truly nothing good will come of racing to the altar at this point in your relationship.

  • EF

    doesn’t respect your pronouns!?!?!?!


    that is such a big deal. like seriously, base-line stuff. but also so important – anywhere outside the standard cis binary and you really really need a partner that is supportive in pronouns.

    i really hope you find someone who recognises and loves you for you.

  • Aubry

    Don’t stay in a mistake just because you took a long time making it.

    You deserve better LW, and it is out there for you, I know it.

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