Why do I put his emotions before mine?

by Jen

My name is Jen. Tanner and I have been together for two years and I'm ready to end the relationship.
My main problem is I feel obligated to help him. He has no job, no car, and family lives in another state. I work as a cashier, making barely enough to pay our bills. He has tried finding work, but I know he will do all that he can to avoid responsibility. He came to this state to run from a child that he didn't want.
He lies to me and his friends. We rushed into a relationship way too fast and now I feel trapped. How do I leave this man? We are both 21 years old, and I have family I can stay with. I am not sure why I can't put myself first for once. Please help me start the conversation, I need this for my own sanity.

Elly's answer to Jen's question

Jen submitted the above problem to my page on ending relationships. Below is my answer to her question about her relationship.
Hi Jen,
I can see how you're feeling trapped. I don't get any sense of positivity in your relationship. Yet clearly some of your needs are being fulfilled and that is the reason you're unable to let go. You have given me far too little information to go by, so here are some of our most important emotional needs:

  • the need to give and receive attention (good or bad)

  • the need for a sense of community

  • the need for a sense of belonging

  • the need for achievement

  • the need for a sense of security

  • the need for meaning

  • the need for a sense of control and volition

Jen, I suspect that it's your need for belonging and security are being fulfilled however unhappy you are in this relationship. Also, you do now have a sense of control, but that will be hugely challenged when you're leaving Tanner, so possibly that too is preventing you to take that final step.
Also look at your past relationship history, Jen. Have their been any traumatic endings? If so, you may deep down be stopping yourself make that final decision and ending your relationship, because of a deep-seated fear.

Self-belief and confidence

I don't know the circumstances of Tanner's history, but imagine yourself for a moment in his shoes and wonder if there's anything in his past that has majorly undermined his self-belief and confidence. I don't for a minute suggest that his past should be used as an excuse, but it may offer an explanation.
Chances are that deep down he really would like to play a meaningful role in the world around him - even if he seems to behave as if he doesn't care and can't be bothered.
However, now he finds himself in a relationship in which he is undoubtedly is heavily criticised, which undoubtedly (further) undermines his confidence. It wouldn't surprise me if he feels like a total failure. He may well be suffering from depression and totally unable to see a way out. He may feel ashamed of the situation and therefore lies to you and his friends.
There may be a completely different reason for his lying of course, but I just want to help you get a different perspective of the whole situation to get you out of your 'stuckness'.

And how is your self-esteem?

Jen, I can so understand your frustration and feeling you're carrying all the responsibility. You too may feel beaten down and depressed. You are working very hard to make ends meet and you feel let down by him.

How to end this relationship

For you to be able to end your relationship, you will need to think how you're going to meet the above mentioned essential emotional needs by yourself. You may also have to consider how your experience in past relationships and their endings are impacting your relationship with Tanner. Are you perhaps repeating an old pattern?
I have a number of pages on ending a relationship, so carry on reading for help with starting the conversation.

6 steps to ending your relationship

  1. Sit down with pen and paper and being dead-honest with yourself write down all the reasons you've given yourself for not ending it.

  2. Stop blaming Tanner - take responsibility for yourself. He is an adult - responsible for himself. You don't need to carry the responsibility for what happens to him when you end the relationship. Do all you can to make it a 'good' ending though (see my other pages on breaking up)

  3. Look at your list and one-by-one address the issues you've come up with. I know it's easier said than done, but that's the way it is

  4. Read all my pages on endings, including the ones on divorce. Even though you're not married - the content does applies to you
  5. In your imagination and in reality work towards creating a realistic alternative to being with Tanner

  6. Stop criticising Tanner, but focus on what you do appreciate about him (remember that he is meeting some of your needs

I suspect this isn't what you wanted to hear, Jen, but this is my best relationship advice for you bearing in mind the limited information I had to go by.
I wish you all the very best for happier times - take good care of yourself.

Warmest regards,


Return to Ending a relationship.

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