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Ask Izzy: Knowing when it's time to say goodbye

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Photo by Turkan Bakirli / Pexels
Photo by Turkan Bakirli / Pexels

Ask Izzy is an advice column about relationships, mental health, and sexuality. Written by Isabel Mata — a Seattle-based lifestyle writer, podcast host, and mental health advocate — Ask Izzy offers tangible expert advice so all readers can have stronger relationships, better sex, and healthier mindsets. Submit your question today by filling out this survey

Dear Izzy,

When is the right time to reevaluate my relationship with my older, married boyfriend? As unconventional as it is with poly relationships (think of this like Terry Miller's relationships with Dan Savage and that younger guy Tom), he and I have been in each other's lives for nearly three years. It took us less than a year to say "I love you."

But this year has been challenging. His husband strongly dislikes me, so sometimes I feel conflicted on saying the "right" things while staying supportive. I know in my heart that I'll always want more out of the relationship because he means so much to me, but right now there's an adjustment phase from his recent medical situation (unprecedented to me), so leaving now or soon would devastate us individually as well as our friendship.

— The Other Tom

Dear Other Tom,

Thank you for your message. To answer your first question, it seems as though you have already started to reevaluate your relationship with your older, married boyfriend by way of this question.

There are a few key things I notice about your message that I want to explore. The first is that you feel pressured to say the "right" things while staying supportive. Unfortunately, there is no right thing to say, especially in a relationship as complex as yours. But the fact that you are feeling pressure shows that the situation is impacting you more than you might realize, since you don't feel comfortable speaking your truth. You shouldn't have to walk on eggshells with those you love, regardless of what other people involved think of you.

You already know that you want more out of the relationship than he is willing to give. So the question I want to ask is: how much are you willing to sacrifice for this person? The love that you two share is clear, but I urge you to think about how the relationship is benefiting you. Are you sticking around because you feel obligated to? Or because you genuinely care and don't want to disrupt his healing?

There will never be a right time to leave or break up. You could come up with a million reasons not to leave, but the truth is you already have a few reasons why it is time for you to go your separate ways. And the longer you hold on to hope that something could change, the more likely you are to end up heartbroken.

I recommend writing a pro and con list, as silly as it sounds, about your relationship with this person. How is it truly serving you? How is it not? Once you do this, I think you will have your answer as to what to do next.