Dear Dana is a bi-weekly advice column for humans who engage in romantic relationships. Please send your dilemmas, issues, conundrums, assumptions, conflicts, anxieties, worriments, obstacles, complications, predicaments, queries, questions, and any other synonyms for “problems” to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please call me K. I am in a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend who is in the U.K. She wants to get married, but I don’t want to yet. She’s a very complicated individual who does not accept No’s from me. If I refuse, I’m sure she will break into tears and call me all the worst names and remind me of all the small bad things I have done to her.
Here’s the situation, I am in the U.S., working and studying at the same time, but I am planning to fly back to my home country so I can finish my degree. She, on the other hand, is pressuring me to marry her, saying we’ll be better off living in the U.S. together. All I can say to her is, “Of course, sure, yes,” but the reality is, I don’t want to marry her yet. We kind of already agreed that I would finish my study first before she could move to the U.S. with me, but now she’s changed her mind, and wants me to stay and work and study at the same time. I have no idea how to tell her this, but I don’t want to get married yet, and I want to finish my study in my home country first. I’m sure if I do, she will cry non-stop, and I will feel horrible about myself because I feel like I am hurting her every time she cries.
Finishing my study has always been my first priority, and I know I will hurt her if I tell her that. When we were together, we would fight everyday, and I even thought of leaving her. But now she wants to get married. Please, I really need your advice. I’m so stressed right now, and I need to know the exact words to say to her so she will realize that all of this is for our future.
Here are the exact words to say to her: “I’m breaking up with you. Good luck with everything.”
I’m going to outline my case as to why you should break up with her using points from your own letter:
- She is a “complicated individual” who “does not accept Nos” = she is difficult and controlling and refuses to allow you to have your own opinions, so you should dump her.
- When she’s angry at you, she calls you names and reminds you of every bad thing you’ve ever done = she’s emotionally abusive, so you should dump her.
- You are trying to finish your degree and aren’t ready to marry anyone right now, but she doesn’t care = she is dismissive of your incredibly valid concerns, so you should dump her.
- WHEN YOU WERE IN THE SAME CITY YOU WOULD FIGHT EVERY DAY = you should make sure that you’re never in the same city as her again, and dumping her would be the best way to make sure of that.
- You are very stressed out right now = dump her and your stress will be greatly reduced, I promise.
Your girlfriend is using techniques on you that are aimed at manipulating you into doing what she wants and, based on your letter, shows almost no concern as to what you want. She is only interested in what you can give her, and when you don’t give her what she wants she tries to make you feel as horrible as possible until you give in. You can’t be honest with her without it becoming a huge, hurtful fight, so instead you lie to her in an attempt to placate her.
You don’t want to marry this woman and I’m really happy to hear that because you shouldn’t marry this woman. This woman will bring you nothing but misery. Know how I know that? BECAUSE CURRENTLY, THIS VERY DAY, SHE IS BRINGING YOU NOTHING BUT MISERY.
I apologize for the shouty caps, but I feel very strongly about this point. You did not list a single good thing about this woman in your letter. You did not include a single happy moment, or feeling, regarding this person. Do you know that you can leave someone who’s mean to you? That you don’t owe her anything? That your obligation to another human being runs out at approximately the same second that they’re only being nice to you if you’re bending to their will?
A person who can’t tolerate the word “no” isn’t a person you should be marrying—it’s a person you should be running away from very quickly. Marriage is nothing but “no”—it’s promising to stand with a person while things don’t work out, over and over and over again. She isn’t looking for a partner—she’s looking for an employee, someone who will have to do what she says and capitulate to her whims. Please, please, don’t be that man. I’m really bothered by her habit of bringing up every little thing you ever did wrong when she’s mad at you, because it shows that she’s trying to tear you down. She wants to make you feel like a small piece of nothing in order to trick you into staying with her. She wants to keep you from realizing that you can just leave her.
But you can just leave her. Please, just leave her.
Here’s another list, to help you decide what to do:
Reasons to get married:
- You want to build a life with that person
- You want to make that person part of your family and become part of theirs
- You want to raise children together
- You want the legal protections of the institution
Reasons not to get married:
- Your girlfriend won’t stop screaming at you until you do it
Here’s a fact: If you marry her, she’ll get worse. People are on their best behavior when they’re in the dating stage, so after you’re married her abusive behavior will simply escalate. You won’t be ending her terrible treatment of you when you marry her—you’ll be accepting it, and agreeing to experience even more.
I’m going to go a step further and tell you how to break up with your girlfriend, so fiery hot is my desire to get you to break up with her. You’re going to give her the news, via your usual long-distance communication method. You’re going to thank her for her love and good memories, assuming there were any, and you’re going to say that you have to end your relationship now because she makes you very, very unhappy. You are not going to get sucked into a long, protracted discussion about this point. You are going to tell her that you are breaking up with her and then you are going to end the discussion as soon as possible. She is going to cry and rail and say horribly mean things to you—when this begins, just hang up and then immediately block her number. Then, go to your email and block her from emailing you. Then, go to your social media pages and block her from contacting you via those as well. Then, go to whatever other communication method she could possibly use to lash out at you, and block her on that platform as well. Tell your mutual friends that you don’t want to hear any messages from her, and tell the friends who have all secretly hated her this entire time, who I suspect are most of them, to please help and support you as you recover from this abusive relationship. You should also note the aspects of her “complicated” personality that first attracted you to her. Write them down on a list, keep that list in your wallet and then, when you meet another girl who is so difficult and exciting, realize that you’re about to repeat the same pattern and walk away. You’ve already dated this type of woman—you’re done with this type of woman.
Don’t try to make it work with this one. Not this one. This one is not your one. Leave her, and find peace.
Dana Norris once went on 71 internet dates, many of which you may read about here. She is the founder of Story Club and editor-in-chief of Story Club Magazine. She has been featured in McSweeney’s, Role Reboot, The Rumpus, and Tampa Review and she teaches at StoryStudio Chicago. You may find her on Twitter at @dananorris.