DEAR AMY: I just broke things off with my fiance. I told him I didn’t want to get married and that I didn’t believe we were right for each other as a couple. We met in college several years ago when we were both different people. I was extremely vulnerable. The sad truth is that I just don’t love him “that way” anymore. He, unfortunately, does not feel the same way and he’s having a hard time coming to terms with it. He has generalized anxiety, so any change is very difficult for him, and this is a very big change for both of us. We’ve lived together for a very long time. We have a joint checking account. We have two cats. We’ve built a life together. Last year, after we graduated, I followed him to another state when he was offered a good position. In that time, I have not found stable work. I’m working on becoming financially independent, but it may take awhile. The bottom line is, I can’t move out. I don’t have the money, and the family members I was still on speaking terms with have refused to let me stay with them. My ex and I agreed that we’re still friends and still important to each other, and he’s assured me that he wants to help me get on my feet. He says that living together as friends won’t be an issue. At the same time, he continues to show me physical affection, as if nothing has changed. When I pull back, he’s very hurt. This makes me feel vulnerable, guilty and angry all at the same time. I’d say he’s being manipulative, but he’s always seemed so inept at handling his or other people’s emotions that I’d always thought him incapable of anything like that. I don’t think he’s doing it intentionally. I think me not moving out is keeping him from processing the fact that we’re no longer a couple. But what can I do?
DEAR STUCK: If you are truly trapped in your living situation (for now), you should do two things: Tell your ex, calmly, how you are feeling; and explain to him that physical contact is off the table.
Also, you should ease toward more distance by separating your finances, and by simply physically intersecting less often. Set up your own private space in the home. You should also look for work that you can do “off hours,” so you and he don’t spend that much time alone together.
Obviously, you must extract yourself from this co-habitation as soon as possible; it is patently unfair to him for you to lower the boom and then stay so close in his orbit. All the same, he will have to adjust to this new reality; after an initial period of adjustment, his inability or refusal to do so will be a sign that you must go.
DEAR AMY: I signed up to support an upcoming amendment to my state’s Constitution. The local volunteer coordinator sent out an email to everyone. I responded with the ways I would prefer to help. The personal reply was asking if we could meet up sometime this week, because the coordinator likes to get to know everyone on the team. This offer makes me extremely uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s safe to meet a stranger privately. Also, a coffee date seems unnecessary. I’m already donating my time, and I don’t want to give up additional time just to get to know them. I’m worried if the coordinator is doing this to everyone, it could be intimidating to other volunteers and ultimately hurting the cause. How do I politely decline and let them know their offer could be off-putting to other volunteers while still being able to possibly work alongside them in the future?
A Cautious Volunteer
DEAR CAUTIOUS: You don’t need to educate the volunteer coordinator about how to coordinate volunteers. If you are nervous about meeting privately (understandable), then simply say, “I’d rather not meet privately but would be happy to answer any questions via email. I’ll be available for any group meetings.”
DEAR AMY: “Devastated Daughter” described my own past when she revealed her sadness over her father’s infidelity, along with other family members’ gossip about it. I wish my family members realized how much their gossip about my father increased my own sadness and confusion when my father cheated. It really hurt.
DEAR DEVASTATED: I completely agree, and I am very sorry this happened to you.