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Adulting 201: Breakups

I need help. How do I end a relationship? More specifically, how do I end a longer term, long distance relationship that’s overall still good and kind? We’re going to see each other over winter break when we’re both home from grad school to visit our families - do I break up with him in a couple weeks when we’re both home? At the beginning or end of the break? Blurt it out when I first see him or pretend to have a super happy reunion? Before we get home? HOW? I haven’t broken up with someone since freshman year of college!

My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over two years. He’s kind, knows me deeply, intellectually stimulating, great in bed, feminist. We’ve been long distance since August, when we both left for grad school in different areas.

Nothing’s.... *wrong* per se. It’s not like he’s been awful and I have a *clear reason* to break up with him. But, we’ll go days without talking to each other, and I feel like he’s no longer the person I turn to first to tell things to. There’ve been multiple instances of me trying to talk about Important Things and it doesn’t really get through, like when I was feeling awful and triggered over the #metoo stuff. Our conversations have become primarily dominated by his work, not mine - which is a really awful gendered dynamic that I’m not at all ok with. (It’s also a deeply ironic dynamic considering my field.)


When we skype or talk directly it’s much better, and when I’ve expressed these frustrations he’s listened, acknowledged the problem, and has made efforts to change. And it does get much better for a little bit! But then, of course, it gets bad again. For example, last Sunday I was stressing about my paper presentations and grant proposals due this week. He never wished me luck or asked how things had gone, never read the draft proposal I sent him a couple weeks ago. I read his stuff, he doesn’t read mine. He says he wants to, but he doesn’t. We didn’t talk at all the first half of the week, because I was (passive-aggressively I guess) waiting to see if he remembered what I was talking about with the presentations and checked in. Or even just said hello. A couple days ago I finally asked how he was doing, etc. He didn’t reciprocate. It’s lots of small lacks like this instead of something easy to name and point to.

I’m just done with not feeling like a priority in his life. But, I wish it were as simple as it sounds. Because he’s clearly still deeply in love with me and just has a different scale for paying attention to things outside of his work. I am a priority for him, but the way he expresses it doesn’t make me feel like I am. He *wants* to do better, but there’s always *something* going on that keeps him from being fully present for me. It’s family shit, or applications, or getting ready for school, or being in school. I still love him, but I’ve also fallen out of love with him. Does that make sense?

And.... this is awful of me, and it feels weird to think about this at 24, but I’m uncomfortable with his life direction. I’m deeply uncomfortable with him taking out nearly six figures of debt for a degree that, while personally rewarding, is pretty much the opposite of financially lucrative. I chose to go to my second/third choice school because it offered funding - it’s also been an amazing experience thus far, so I’m beyond happy with my choice, but still. He never wants kids, I’ve recently realized that I actually do want them. He doesn’t have any vision for what he wants to actually *do* post-school besides “not XYZ soul-sucking side job”. Which would be fine if he weren’t taking out SO much debt and weren’t derisive of perfectly fine but not *dream* jobs!

So. I don’t want to be unnecessarily mean. But I also don’t want to be utterly confusing by not giving reasons. How do I actually do this?!??

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