Dear Uncle Mat,
I’ve recently come out of a major relationship. It lasted about two years, and ended around a month ago. Our time together was largely something I wouldn’t regret, if it weren’t for the situation I’m in now. When we eventually agreed to call it a day, however, we were arguing almost every time we talked, and all the affection had gone from our relationship. Even on the good days, I simply couldn’t pretend I felt anything for my boyfriend anymore; I was out of love. For a while after we broke up, it was OK. We didn’t talk for a while, then we talked as friends, and I started to enjoy spending time with him again. Unfortunately, he then took this to mean that we should try the relationship again, which is just about the last thing I’d want to do after all this. He now constantly wants to bring it up, which makes me bitter and short with him, which just makes him upset and me feel bad for doing so. One of the things we’ve discussed is severing contact altogether, which would definitely be the easiest and best option were it not for the fact that he’s suffered from depression before we met and has apparently been pushed back into it by this breakup. He threatens to self-harm and talks about contemplating suicide, which has meant that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to talk him out of doing anything stupid. He acts as if being with me is the only way he’ll ever be happy again, even when that’s clearly bullshit and our relationship was damaging us both. I can’t cope with the uncertainty of what he’ll do if I do cut him out of my life. The effect of all this is basically that I hate him for the amount of emotional manipulation he’s dumped on me, and I desperately want a way out without having to worry about how far he’ll damage himself. I’ve tried to get him to see a therapist, as that worked for him in the past, apparently, but he says he can’t afford it, and when I tell him to look to his other friends, he’s disgustingly misanthropic and refuses to talk to them, saying none of them actually care. I have no idea what to do, but I really need to sort this out.
I’d hate him, too, but “disgustingly misanthropic!?” Remind me not to get in a fight with you. I love an eight-syllable slight as long as it isn’t thrown at me.
“Emotional manipulation” is also a heavy hitter and dead on. He has you in a nasty little spot and isn’t likely to let you out. In all honesty, even if you relented to the relationship, he wouldn’t likely improve. He has gained the upper hand and has little reason to give it up. This can even grow into a form of emotional abuse in which your ex-boyfriend slowly gains control over you via sympathy he manipulates into guilt. It is time to flip all of the emergency switches and get the hell off that ship.
Call his parents, friends, dog, and anyone else whom you think cares about him. Tell them he needs help. Explain that he is depressed and has threatened suicide. Be clear that you two do not have a healthy friendship or relationship and you are not in a position to help him. Let them know that you have to cut ties for your own wellbeing and are very concerned that this may cause him to take action on his threats to harm himself.
Step two is to cut all ties and communication. You can do so in person or in a phone conversation, but preferably not via email. Write down and give him the number to the United Way Help Line (211 or (210) 227-4357) and the Family Service Association (210) 299-2400). Be prepared to feel like shit and also to take action. You may need to block his number and emails. He may hurt himself. You are not responsible. He needs professional help. If you pray, burn incense, or sacrifice animals for others, do that for him every day. Keeping him in your good thoughts is the best you can do after ending the relationship.
I mean no harm or discredit to your ex-boyfriend, but he is ill and you are not the one who can save him. I sincerely hope his family and friends will be able to help him.
Much love, luck, and hope,
Your Uncle Mat
Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets and art. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, myspace.com/yourunclemat, or check out the Dear Uncle Mat Page on Facebook. Your true identity is safe with him.