Should I dump him?

My boyfriend and I disagree on something major, and it’s making me think that I should break up with him. But when we’re together, things are really great aside from arguments about this one thing, and I don’t want to end things. What should I do?

I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. – Meatloaf

04-05-12-13-22 / 03

Hello Diner. I can understand what’s holding you back. I don’t know enough about your situation, but if there’s just one thing on which you’re disagreeing, chances are you like this person very much. Breaking up is something absolute, and it deprives you of all the good things about that person. You can’t just break up with the bad parts of him. If you could, everyone would have perfect relationships, and marriage counselors and Advice Fortune Cookies alike would have to find new lines of work. On the other hand, there would also be lots of random chunks of terrible people hopping around–a commitment-phobic leg over here, a narcissistic shoulder over there. No one wants that.

So how do you decide at what point you dump him?

That all depends on how central that One Thing is to you. If it bothers you enough to ask a magical Cookie, then chances are this issue is very close to your core values. But perhaps this person is so great, you still want to hold out hope that he’ll change–or else if he is that great, he’ll know to change. Then what?

Then ask yourself what life changing forces are in your relationship to drive that change. In Newtonian physics, an object in motion will keep moving in the same direction and speed until a force acts on it. A comet barreling toward Earth doesn’t change course because it feels sorry for nice, well-meaning people. Something needs to turn a “should” into a “must.”

It’s important to say that I’m not talking about punishments like the Silent Treatment or withholding affection. If either of you use these punishments, it just means you have a bad communication problem on top of that original issue you wrote to the Bakery about.

“Life changing forces” are things that will alter your core belief. Think of what will make you change your mind on this subject wholeheartedly. That’s how strong those forces have to be for him to think differently, Diner. Clearly neither of you has experienced whatever you two need to be swayed. If things stay the same, expect…well…the same.

Life isn’t going to be all good, but it certainly shouldn’t have repeats of the same problem. That point more than anything should tell you when it’s time to go. Understand you can only change half of the things in a relationship–your half. If you’ve moved heaven and earth, but the comet is still coming your way, RUN. Good luck, Diner, good luck.

How do I cope with my abandonment issues?

My father left me when I was a very young child. After recently reconnecting with that family I have discovered that my existence was treated as a ‘dirty little secret’. My sister was shushed on several occasions when the mere mention of her father’s other child was brought up. There was only one photograph of me hidden in our dad’s belongings. Feeling unwanted has affected every relationship I’ve had, like my partner is doing me a favour by being there.

The SI unit for friendship is pizza.

01-09-13-32-38 / 27

Hello Diner. Doing a favor is minor and superficial. Doing a favor is spending a weekend moving for you and then expecting pizza in return. People are in your life because the experience itself is just as meaningful for them as it is for you. They are neither there to be entertained nor to fulfil charity.

Of course there will be those who steal your time for selfish reasons. You can tell who they are by the energy they expend focusing on themselves. We discussed them in this Fortune. Regardless of how much you fear losing people, those people should have a very small, if any, part in your life. Keep looking for those who love you. Keep risking more trust. You overcome fear by stepping through it.

I can’t assure you that no one will ever leave you–that you won’t feel that pain ever again. But all relationships–like the living things they are–grow, age, and die. For you, a life is two handfuls of decades. For us Fortune Cookies, our first meal is our last. Both are lifetimes.

Success in relationships is not its longevity. Rather, success is choosing your fulfillment. Some marriages last whole decades without any enrichment to either person’s life. Is that successful? Success is deciding to be present in the moment, and letting that moment change you positively. Once that moment passes, it’s yours forever simply because time (as you see it) only goes forward.

Deciding to have you and then treating you like a dirty secret are two decisions that your father can never take back. Even if he found compassion now, you’ve lived with that indelible history, but that history doesn’t have to define you. Those are his failures, not yours.

Understand that your father made two decisions about you among the millions of decisions you’ve made in a lifetime. Those millions beyond your father’s two show who you are: your values and prejudices, your interests and sense of humor, your taste and passions, your empathy and hatreds, your curiosity, and your sense of responsibility. People fall in love with those things. People spend time with you to make social music with each of those notes.

If everyone met you only out of pity, those encounters wouldn’t have been filled with conversations, laughter, and compassion. True companions care about you as much as you would them. They love the very sight of you–in whatever condition you are. To say they’re doing you a favor ignores the whole range of emotions that you feel for them.

Feelings in relationships go both ways. The human connection happens because people are capable of compassion, trust, and love for each other. Keep looking, and share that connection. Be present, and don’t lament lost futures. Be changed, and don’t regret the past. Good luck on your search, Diner.

How do you break up with someone as painlessly as possible?

I’ve been dating the same guy for a few years, but I feel suffocated. I just feel so trapped in my relationship. It used to be good, but a tragedy happened, and he became depressed. He’s given up responsibilities and just isn’t happy anymore. I don’t like the person he has become, but I understand why he’s changed. I want to help. I want to be there for him. But other than his job, I feel I’m the only thing in his life, and that’s a lot of pressure. He’s given up friends and hobbies. If I leave him, I’m afraid his life will fall apart, and I really love him, so I don’t want that to happen. At the same time, I don’t want to be with him because it isn’t really a relationship anymore. I know I need to break up with him. I’m young; I want experiences of my own without him, but he just wants to marry me. I want out and need out, but I don’t know how without hurting him deeply. Can I get tips/advice on how to break somebody’s heart with the least amount of pain?

Be quick and brief.

04-13-50-52-56 / 19

Hello Diner. I’m so deeply sorry. We mentioned in this Fortune that the best thing is to end a one-sided romance promptly. Your situation is more involved; however, the advice still works. Even when you don’t choose to act this way, staying somewhere you’re unhappy will make you more stressed and likely to lash out. If he isn’t working on his depression, he is never going to improve. By staying, you lose ever more opportunities to grow independently.

Fortunately, you have decided to leave. I see that you’re afraid he may hurt himself. Don’t ever feel like you need to handle this yourself. Emergency services or suicide hotlines have specialized training. Take all threats seriously. Get help if you notice these signs:

  • Taking steps or researching ways to commit suicide
  • Talking about suicide or being a burden
  • Acting in an extreme and volatile way
  • Giving away belongings
  • Asking for forgiveness or closure unexpectedly

But don’t let this discourage you. Most importantly, remember that whatever happens, everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions. As you are taking responsibility for your growth as a person, your partner is and will be responsible for anything he does. Breaking up is still the best thing to do. Here is some guidance:

1. Prepare for the break up. Emotionally prepare for sure, but also work out logistics. Make the exchange simple. Determine how to arrive and leave easily. Gather his things and plan out how to get yours.

2. Meet somewhere he feels comfortable. Many lifestyle sites suggest public places to contain outbursts or prevent danger. However, anywhere where your partner is not comfortable being vulnerable will be torture. But above all be safe.

3. Keep the conversation short. Remember that this is not a negotiation. Dragging through a series of debates and ultimatums will not help the break up. Using more words now would complicate it.

4. Save explanations for later–much later. You are not looking for permission or agreement. You don’t need either for the relationship to end! If you feel that your growth as a person is stifled, then breaking up is the right thing. If you need a reason, have a short one prepared: I don’t think continuing this relationship is the best for me, so I decided it was the right time to end it. There is no need to explain your decision making.

4. Allow his network to take care of him without you. If you still act as his caretaker, you haven’t broken up. Be done. Move on.

Having a partner in this situation is troubling. You mentioned a lot of obligation and guilt, but being unhappy then becomes a tragic life for you. Your decision is still right. That said, the risk of suicide is real, but don’t act on your own. Good luck Diner. With grace, the break up will go as well as possible.