Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Is There A Right Way To Break Up With Someone?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am a 25 year old homosexual male. My boyfriend and I have been together a little over a year and a half. I love him dearly but I’m not 100% positive that he’s the man I want to marry and start a family with. Herein lies the issue: he is sure.

Now for some background. This man has had a VERY turbulent childhood. I’ll spare you the gory details, but long story short his parents kicked him out and disowned him when he came out as trans. Needless to say, he didn’t really have a family before he met me. He’s told me on multiple occasions how I’ve given him a family, and I am so unbelievably happy that I’ve been able to do that for him.

However, I feel stuck.

Lately, I’ve been debating with myself if I want to pull the trigger and break up with him. I know this is gonna make me sound shallow, but part of it is because I miss dick, as he does not have one (he has a very small one that grew due to the hormones, but that’s besides the point) and will not entertain the idea of an open relationship. But the majority of it is because, ever since the pandemic hit, he’s been quite annoying and SUPER clingy. I’m not quite sure where it came from; he was never like this pre-COVID.

Like he’s told me, I’ve finally given him a family, and I have no idea how in the hell I can even BEGIN to take that away from him. And that comes in addition to the internal debate that normally comes with wanting to break up with a person.

I also thought it might be worth adding that he has told me multiple times that he would never break up with me. So, if either of us were to break things off, it’d be me. I don’t like that and, I’m no relationship expert, but that can’t be healthy. What if I were to royally screw him over in some unforgivable way?

Any advice on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

–Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

DEAR CAUGHT BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: Let me ask you something, CBRHP: are you asking me for advice or are you asking me for permission to do what you’ve already decided you want to do?

I mean, I’ll put it bluntly: there is no way of breaking up with someone that isn’t going to hurt. Ending a relationship with somebody, even a relationship that needs to end, is a painful experience. There really isn’t a way to tell someone that you don’t want to date them any more that isn’t going to hurt. The scope and the length of the pain is going to vary depending on a lot of different factors, but it’s going to be there. The key is to avoid unnecessary pain, to make the process as quick as possible and — if you can — give him a place to land when the break comes. And honestly, I get the fear of leaving someone because you’re worried about what might happen to them afterwards. I’ve fielded a lot of questions from folks who were afraid to break up with their partners because they were worried about suicide, self-harm or otherwise leaving them worse off than they were before. I’m not unsympathetic, especially when that fear isn’t born out of an abuser taking themselves hostage to keep their partner around. But there comes a point where you have to ask yourself: how long are you going to stay in a relationship that you aren’t happy in because leaving your partner will hurt them? Another year? Five years? Twenty?

All that having been said: it doesn’t sound like any of the problems you have are insurmountable or unfixable if you want to try to fix them. You say you miss dick. Does it need to be biological dick? There’re a host of options available to give your partner (and you) a penis of just about any size that you might desire. Get the right harness for your partner and the two of you could have an entire smorgasbord of cocks of every size and shape for whatever whim the two of you might have that day. Hell, depending on just how much the hormones gave him, he could even get a penis extender sheath — think of a 3.5mm to 1/4″ plug adapter, except for your junk — that would give him him sensation during penetration and you the dick you’re looking for.

Similarly, the clinginess and be dealt with. “Where it came from” seems pretty obvious to me; it’s likely equal parts an understanding reaction to the COVID pandemic and the fact that he probably feels you becoming distant from him. Both of these are understandable. A lot of people are having complicated emotional reactions to life under COVID, especially if they came from troubled backgrounds. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to upend your (already) fragile sense of security and stability and leave you clinging for one of the few rocks in your life. Similarly, your boyfriend isn’t dumb and I don’t think you’re the poker player you think you are. The odds are very good that you’ve been acting differently as you’ve been thinking about breaking up with him. While this may not be the most productive way of handling things, when some people are afraid their partner may be pulling away from them, their instinct is to try to cling to them even harder. This doesn’t often help… but it is a common response.

And honestly there’s nothing wrong with being in a relationship when you aren’t 100% sure you’re ready to settle down and start a family. You (obviously) don’t want to make promises that you can’t or won’t be able to keep, but not every relationship is going to have perfect parity of emotion between both parties. That’s a thing that can often ebb and flow.

All of these things are issues that could be worked on. Your boyfriend could talk to a counselor about his anxiety  and the two of you could work with a sex-positive couple’s therapist to work on his clinginess, your need for dick and the question of where this relationship is going in the long term.

But again: that’s if you haven’t already made up your mind and you’re just reaching out for advice on how to end things.

If that’s the case… well, like I said, the best thing you can do is to make the break as quick and as clean as possible, and to soften the landing for him as best you can. You gave him a family, and that doesn’t necessarily need to come to an end. Presumably his new, found family consists of more than just you. Giving them the heads up that you’re about to break up with him and he’s going to need extra love, care and attention would be a kindness, and help ensure that he has the support he needs. But staying with him, when you emotionally have a foot out the door, isn’t doing him any favors. If anything, the longer you stay while you’re in that headspace, the worse it is for him. After all: how would you feel if you found out that someone you loved had spent the last however-long you were together wanting out but not leaving because reasons?

You have a choice to make here, CBRHP. If you aren’t sure you want to end things and you’re willing to try to fix the relationship, then commit to doing so. But if you’ve decided that you’re ready to leave and it’s just a matter of how… do it soon, do it fast and leave him with as much support and as many resources as you possibly can.

Good luck.

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