How can I break up with the guy who has loved me for 10 years?

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We’ve been together for 10 years. Through it all, I’ve finished my degree, found a good job, became financially stable, and he… Came along for the ride.

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He has suffered pitfalls through the years that have definitely hindered his development (mental illness, family issues, job instability, etc.) but I’ve reached a point where I want to move on in life, and he isn’t in a place where he can progress with me. I’ve waited 10 years for him to get his shit together, finish a degree or trade program and just become an adult with me, but in so many ways he is still the 21 year old I met years ago. I’m tired.

I know I want to end things, need to, but he still loves me deeply, and he’s told me before that I’m the only good thing in his life. How do I split our lives when he still considers me his world?

John M. Kaman’s answer: Ending a long-term relationship, especially with someone who has depended on you emotionally, is undeniably challenging. It involves navigating a complex web of emotions, expectations, and fears. Yet, the decision to part ways, borne from a deep understanding of your own needs and aspirations, is a testament to your courage and self-awareness. Here’s how you might approach this delicate situation with empathy, integrity, and respect:

  1. Preparation: Before initiating the conversation, take time to clarify your thoughts and reasons for wanting to end the relationship. Being clear and certain about your decision will help you communicate more effectively and compassionately.
  2. Choose an Appropriate Setting: Find a private, quiet place for this conversation where you both feel safe and won’t be interrupted. This shows respect for the gravity of the discussion and for his feelings.
  3. Communicate with Honesty and Compassion: Start by expressing your gratitude for the time you’ve spent together and the growth you’ve experienced. Acknowledge the love and support that have been part of your relationship. Then, gently but clearly, explain your feelings and the reasons you believe it’s best to part ways. Use “I” statements to own your feelings and avoid placing blame.
  4. Be Prepared for His Reaction: He may feel shocked, angry, or deeply hurt. Allow him to express his emotions without trying to fix or mitigate them. Listening is powerful and necessary.
  5. Offer Clarity, Not False Hope: It’s crucial to be clear that your decision is final to prevent any misunderstanding. Offering false hope can prolong the pain and hinder the healing process for both of you.
  6. Discuss Practicalities Respectfully: Depending on your living situation, financial entanglements, or shared responsibilities, there will be practicalities to address. Approach these discussions with fairness and a willingness to find solutions that respect both of your needs.
  7. Support Networks: Encourage him to lean on friends, family, or professional support to help him through this transition. While you can offer empathy, remember that it’s also important to establish boundaries that honor your decision to move on.
  8. Self-Care: Ending a relationship, even when you know it’s the right decision, can be emotionally draining. Ensure you have support during this time, too.
  9. Give Space and Time: Both of you will need time and space to process the end of the relationship and to begin healing. Respect this process by limiting contact as much as possible, according to what you both need to move forward.
  10. Reflect and Learn: Once the immediate emotional turmoil has settled, take time to reflect on the relationship. Consider the growth, the challenges, and the lessons learned. This can be an invaluable process for personal development and for healthier relationships in the future.

Remember, ending a relationship compassionately is about honoring the love that was shared while also respecting your own and the other person’s path to growth and happiness. It’s a profound act of care to both yourself and your partner, acknowledging that moving forward separately is the most loving choice for both of your futures.

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