I want out

I've been seeing a woman for three years, but we both know it's over. How do I exit gracefully?


Cary Tennis
February 20, 2004 1:28AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I'm in my 40s, and I've been involved with a woman the same age for close to three years. We see each other exclusively and frequently, as much as my custody situation allows (I have custody of a 7-year-old), which is really the only thing that keeps us from seeing each other every day.

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By all outward appearances, we are happy and meant for each other. But here's the rub: She has never -- that's right, never -- told me she loves me. She has never brought up our future life together in any capacity: marry, live together, continue as we are, or end it. In fact, whenever this comes up for discussion (albeit rarely), it's always me bringing up the subject, but the discussion never goes anywhere and nothing is ever resolved. In a word, I'm done. Little signs from her can be interpreted as meaning she's done, too.

However, I am reluctant to end it. Not too long ago, she told me that she would "hunt me down" if I broke up with her (she was quite drunk and probably doesn't remember saying it). That really shook me up (I've had to get a protective order from a woman in my past). I guess my question is, what is the point of continuing this relationship that has become almost a charade? I want my child to have a life filled with as much "normalcy" as possible after the horrible divorce and post-divorce shit she has had to endure (including emotional and physical abuse). For me, that means marriage or platonic friendship with my current significant other. Marriage is out (in my mind), but I fear that a friendship will be difficult, based on her comment about hunting me down.

How do I exit this with a minimal amount of hurt, fear, anger and resentment?

Help Me Out

Dear Help Me Out,

Often when people write to me with a problem, I get an immediate sense of some dominant, driving emotion or desire: They want to get married, or they want a new job, or they want to make a decision. But you've put forward what I might call a negative proposition: You've described an unpleasant situation you would like to get out of with the least possible pain, while what you actually want, in an affirmative sense, is a little hazy. Perhaps you're still getting over this nasty divorce. Perhaps you're in the habit of reacting to what life throws at you rather than considering what your nature hungers for.

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Sometimes it helps to pick one thing and concentrate on it. So let's try this: Let's talk about your daughter for a minute. The one clear wish you express is for your child to have a life filled with as much "normalcy" as possible. You put "normalcy" in quotes, as if to distance yourself from it. But I am guessing again -- you see? -- because you seem to express yourself through propositions in the negative.

So I'll be even more direct and frank: I think if you sincerely place your daughter first in your life, the other elements will fall into place. Besides, it's only right that you do. She belongs at the center of your life. So think about your behavior from your daughter's perspective. What would she want? She assuredly would not want you to be with a woman who's threatening to hunt you down if you leave her. Think about how your daughter would feel if she overheard such a thing. She would be deeply afraid for you.

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You have to step up here and be the man. This woman is not right for you or for your daughter. You've got to cast her out like a stone. Don't be intimidated by her threats. I note that you had a protective order against another woman in your past. So you know what office issues them if you need another one.

Obviously, your interactions with women form a pattern. You need to look into this. Why do women repeatedly come after you and try to hurt you? Do you like crazy, abusive women? Was your wife crazy and abusive? Do you incite them somehow? If so, again, because you're looking at this from your daughter's perspective, you have to stop all this craziness.

Make it your top priority to create a peaceful and secure environment for your daughter. In the process, you'll be creating a peaceful, secure environment for yourself. How do you do that? Well, first you find a nice, quiet, peaceful, secure place to live. Then you do things that are quiet, peaceful and secure, like going to peaceful, quiet and secure museums, zoos, beaches and picnic spots. Places that are loud, chaotic and dangerous, on the other hand, you avoid. In that category would be nightclubs, bars, strip clubs, boxing matches, cockfights, illegal road races and Macy's the day after Thanksgiving. And you can do the same thing with people. Look for people whose lives seem peaceful and secure, and try to be with them more. Don't worry if it seems a little boring at first. You're doing this for your daughter, not for yourself.

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Stick with this for a few years and see if things don't improve.

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Cary Tennis

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