He stopped drinking during COVID

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Hi Meredith,

I am in a tough situation, and I'm sure to anyone else it will seem obvious what I should do here, but I just need another perspective because I'm too in my head. I am 36 and have been with my partner for eight years. Up until about a year ago, I was dealing with a lot of emotional trauma at the hands of his alcohol abuse and cheating. Right around when COVID hit, he stopped drinking and showed a greater interest in working on our relationship. You could say things improved and he is showing no interest in going back to his old behavior. I will note that he blamed a lot of his drinking and poor decisions on his upbringing and also his own emotional trauma in adulthood.

During this time, we also started talking more seriously about our future together and where we both stood on marriage/kids. I would say I used to always have a "take it or leave it" attitude with those things, and to be honest, I never really thought he and I would get there. About a year ago, he told me he is firmly decided on having kids and settling down, and wants it to be with me. This has caused me to feel a sense of dread/fear, and I think it's because I've been so conditioned for years to be on the defense with him, and have had severe issues with trust. There was also no real effort on his part to pick up the broken pieces whenever something happened between us. There was an apology, a promise to get better, and reassurance that he loved me. No initiative on his part to go to therapy with me or really do anything else to make me trust him. I will take ownership over enabling this behavior, because while I threatened to leave if he didn't put in more work, I stayed over and over again. Now, a year after our last argument around drinking, he is offering to do what I've always asked him to do – go to therapy, share his passwords, etc. – and I don't know how I feel about it.

I guess I feel ambivalent/numb about our future and it's starting to cause me great anxiety. I fear that even though I love him, this might not be the right relationship for me (regardless of his effort to change now), but that if I leave, I might regret doing so. Basically I just feel like I'm unable to shake our history and see us in an optimistic light and be excited for the future. It's making me feel stuck, all while I'm watching my biological clock tick. While I don't believe that things would ever be bad as they were, it does cross my mind that maybe things have improved because life as we know it has come to halt. I truly do not know what to do here. I guess I've just been hoping that I'd wake up some day and realize I completely trust him and am ready to move forward. Or, be completely done with everything and leave without being afraid that I made a wrong move. Just trying to get unstuck and stop feeling like I'm wasting time in limbo.

– Limbo


"I guess I've just been hoping that I'd wake up some day and realize I completely trust him and am ready to move forward."

Well, that's not going to happen.

The answer to your question does seem obvious, but only because of how you framed your own feelings. You tell us you're ambivalent about a future with this man, even if he remains at his best. You say you're not able to get over the history, and that his decision to work on himself may have come too late. Also, you're at the place where trusting him means having his passwords. You still have to worry about what you might find when you go looking.

Your only concern about leaving is that you might have regrets, and you will, of course, because big breakups involve many feelings. There are days when it feels like you made the right move – when you feel empowered, independent, and hopeful. There are other days, though, that might feel shaky, scary, and lonely. You might think, "What have I done? Was it as bad as I thought?" But those days don't represent what you know is best. You can get through those moments with deep breaths, distractions, and maybe by reading this letter to yourself out loud. It's a real snapshot of why this is the end.

You don't want to build a more of a life with this person, but you want to building something with someone. It's time to go. You've made that clear.

– Meredith

Readers? Agree? Any hesitation here?