This is so long, Dan, and I'm so sorry. I hope you read it and I hope you reply.
I've been with my fiancé for four years. I'm 30 years old and he's 35 years old. We're both heterosexual and cisgender. We've been engaged since August of last year and our wedding is this coming August. I don't want to marry him. There are a lot of reasons for this, most of which stem from compatibility issues, which I have known about for a long time, but I've been in denial.Sponsored
My fiancé is a sweet, sensitive, caring man who is also a manchild. When we met he had recently been laid off from a well-paying job and was working at a low-paying job as a stopgap. He was living in a bad roommate situation with people he didn't get along with and between his rent and other expenses he couldn't afford to feed himself adequately and was losing weight due to stress and lack of sustenance.
When I started dating him, I fell in love with his passion and sensitivity. He is very caring and generous with his affection, something I really appreciated. He's also really understanding of my mental illness. I have depression and anxiety and have struggled with them since I was a teenager. He doesn't shame me for my emotions and listens to me talk about my feelings in a way that no boyfriend before him ever did. We talked about politics and social justice. At the time we met he was not a feminist, but has since become a vocal advocate for the women and really goes out of his way to use his privilege to educate (and tell off) men he knows who spout misogynist bullshit. He credits me with educating him about women's and minority rights and says that I have made him a better person. We have similar senses of humor and enjoy each others company.
After eight months together, my boyfriend and I moved into our own apartment. I was the one who suggested it, not because I was emotionally ready to move in with him, nor was our relationship sufficiently serious, but he was suffering from underemployment and his terrible roommates and I wanted to help him. He didn't know that at the time and still doesn't know that now. I didn't want him to know I was taking pity on him, even though I also knew that these were not good reasons for moving in and that it might not work out in the long run.
After we moved in together, we never have really successfully communicated about money, chores, or life goals. We talk about it until we reach a disagreement and then the conversation stops. We change the subject and never revisit it again. For example, I want to leave the area we now live in and move to a city a few hours away that's less busy and expensive. My fiancé is an only child and is not willing to live more than 1.5 hours from his parents, especially if/when there is a child in the picture.
Another example: I tried to create a household budget with him, splitting our contribution equitably (at the time I was making more money than him, his contribution was to be 40%). He barely participated in the discussion and then completely ignored the budget and I never confronted him about it. All of the household bills are in my name and I'm the only one who has a credit card. I have to remind him every week that he needs to send me money for rent and household expenses. He never sends the money unless I ask. Often he wouldn't have his full amount and he never makes up the difference. As a result, I went into $10K credit card debt in eighteen months. My parents paid it off when they found out during a mental health crisis that I had, which was caused in no small part by the amount of debt I had accumulated. (Prior to this I had stellar credit, and no debt and was financially independent.) In the last three years, my fiancé got back into his previous field and is now making about $10K more per year than me but we never revisited the budget conversation. I have reined in my own spending in order to make sure that I don't go back into debt. I also know that my fiancé regularly "borrows" money from his mother, who is precariously employed herself and nearing retirement age. (He doesn't know that I know about this.)
We do chores only when the house is a complete disaster. We've lived together for over three years and treat two of our three bedrooms as storage areas with unpacked boxes and stacks of paperwork and bills and just junk that we have no other place for. Our bathroom is particularly filthy. We've both acknowledged that we're playing "filth chicken," where neither of us wants to do one minute more housework than the other... so instead we live in filth. I have tried implementing a chore schedule, I have tried making lists of things that need to be done in a given week, I've tried talking to him about both of us pulling our weight and nothing changes. The mess really impacts my mental health, but it's so overwhelming that I find I can't even begin to deal with it properly. We just do the bare minimum so that we can cook, eat, and wear clean clothes.
We smoke weed every single day after work. Our evenings are spent in front of the TV. On weekends we smoke from morning until evening in front of the TV. We've both gained weight and are experiencing other health issues due to this sedentary lifestyle. He says he's still attracted to me but has no sex drive. He says it's due to his age, but he's not that old. I still have a sex drive, it's low but it's there. I have no desire to actually engage in sex though, due to my weight gain and also because I have a hard time allowing myself to experience pleasure when I am neglecting myself and my responsibilities so terribly. Even when I am horny at the same time he is, I usually say no because I look around our filthy house and don't think I've earned it. When we do have sex it's really fun and passionate and I always orgasm. We always say we should make an effort to do it more often. But we're currently having sex once every few months.
We tried going to a couples counselor last year. It took three months to find someone that our insurance accepted and who could see us at an agreeable time that wouldn't require time off work. We went to three sessions and I didn't find it very helpful. She said that our problems weren't that bad, that we should "just hire a cleaner" and that I'm naturally going to take the lead on being the "household manager" since that obviously isn't my fiancé's strong suit, and she advised me to stop stop being so resentful about it. We didn't go back and haven't looked for another counsellor since.
Things did improve for a while after we decided to stop seeing the therapist and work harder on our relationship. We still had the same issues but were able to talk about them more frankly and my fiancé started taking more initiative around the house and with his money. We saved up a few thousand dollars and paid off our car. At this point we got engaged because things were going well. And I'm now 30 and want/need to have a kid soon if it's going to happen at all. He also wants a child and we do love each other, so we got engaged and started planning a small wedding. It was a time when I was happy about where our relationship was headed.
But since November, we have lapsed back into our old habits. He isn't paying me rent on time, and I'm dipping into our meager savings. Our house is a disaster again and every time I look around I just want to cry. But instead I just smoke weed and zone out in front of the TV.
Whenever I talk about my mental health, he is attentive and sympathetic. He says we will make more of an effort. He gives me back and shoulder rubs and compliments me and tells me how amazing I am. But the environment around us never changes and that's exacerbating my mental health issues. I've explained it to him so many times and have been trying to keep on top of the house on my own, but he's like a hurricane and I can only do so much before I get so overwhelmed that I just collapse in tears.
I know I'm an equal participant in this mess and I haven't advocated for myself properly. I am now psychologically dependent on weed and find it difficult to go a day without it even though I recognize it's not actually helping me anymore. I am scared to be alone and worry that if we break up that I will be so lonely that I will kill myself. I'm worried that this is my only chance to have a child because establishing a new relationship now will take the rest of my childbearing years. I have not told anyone about the state of our relationship because I know it would shock my friends and family to hear this stuff (they all adore him) and I'm so ashamed of how bad things are and how I let it get to this place.
I can't marry him. I know that. I can't lives like this for the rest of my life. I certainly can't bring a child into this. I want to leave him and just be responsible for myself again. I want to quit smoking weed. I want to prioritize my mental health in a way that isn't possible right now. I want to save money and maybe move to a new city and get a fresh start. But I can't look him in the eye and tell him that. I can't watch his heart break. But I have to. I know I have to in order to give myself a chance at the kind of life that I want. I just feel so guilty because he will be devastated and blindsided by this. My whole family and all of our friends will know what happened because we're going to have to cancel the wedding and that will be embarrassing for us and our parents.
But with everything that I've told you... this is the right thing to do... right?
Please help me figure out how to do this. Or tell me not to. I don't know.
Seeking Escape Hatch
Tell your fiancé you want out—no, wait. Don't tell him that.
If you say something the least bit ambiguous he's gonna seize on that ambiguity and attempt to open negotiations. Tell him what you want, he'll counter with what he wants, and before you know it you'll be suckered into hammering out a compromise—he'll do more housework, he'll kick in more money, he'll do chores—that won't work (he's not going to change) and won't actually get you what you want (which is out).
So tell him it's over. Tell him the wedding is off, tell him you're done playing "filth chicken" with him, tell him you're done hounding him to pay his fair share of the rent. You're done.
But don't tell him that immediately. First things first: call in the cavalry, make a plan, save some money.
Level with your immediate family members and closest friends—they would be the cavalry—about the reality of your relationship. However adorable your fiancé might seem to them, he isn't
the a person you want to spend your life with nor is he a person they should want you to spend your life with. For while he's good to you in some ways (he listens, he's understanding, etc.,) he's not good for you in more ways—he's not good for you financially and domestically, and in the final accounting, SEH, he's not good for you emotionally. Because whatever benefit his willingness to listen provides where your mental health is concerned, it's more than cancelled out by the despair that living with him makes you feel and the acres of pot you have to smoke to blunt those feelings of despair.
Then with the help of your immediate family members and closest friends, SEH, make a plan. Plot out the when and how of the breakup. Accept whatever material and logistical support the cavalry can provide—a small loan, a temporary place to stay, and, when the day comes, help moving your shit out. And I bet having an escape plan will make putting up with your fiancé and the filthy bathroom and the long nights on the couch easier because you'll be able to tell yourself, "This is only temporary, this is ending soon, I'm getting the fuck out of this."
You'll need some money set aside to get out, SEH, and it'll be easier to set that money aside once you're no longer spending money on a wedding that isn't going to happen. (And since you handle all the bills, SEH, your fiancé won't know if you cancel bookings and get refundable deposits back, right?) And dialing back the pot use will also save you some money—and you might find it easier to dial back your pot consumption after you're able to tell yourself, again, "This is only temporary, this is ending soon, I'm getting the fuck out of this."
With the cavalry is in place, a plan made, and some money saved, set a date to both break off your engagement and move out, SEH, and then do it. If it helps—and it will—share the date with the cavalry (maybe send "save the date" cards to a select few) and ask them to carve out some time on that day to help you move out.
You shouldn't be the one who has to move out, SEH, but if you tell him to move out he may drag his feet in the hopes that enough pleading and pot will get you to change your mind. So even if it means having to give you soon-to-be ex a little money to cover your part of the rent for a reasonable amount of time (no more than two months) while he finds a new roommate who doesn't mind filth, being able to tell him it's over while the cavalry loads your possessions into a waiting truck will make for the cleanest escape.
And consider finding a new counselor—not a couples counselor, just a you counselor—who can provide you with the emotional support you'll need once this guy is out of your life.