I feel guilty about leaving him

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I’ve been in a relationship with this guy for a of couple months, but it's not something I was enthusiastic about starting. We were friends, and he was going through a lot. He suddenly caught feelings for me and wanted a relationship, but I refused at first. That made his mental health worse, so I decided to date him. I hoped my feelings would grow.

Three months into the relationship, I realized that not only does this guy suffer from depression, he also has some pretty toxic traits. He’s manipulative, obsessive, and has anger issues, and I always felt trapped and drained with him. I wanted to leave, but when I got the chance, I ended up feeling sorry for him.

Finally, back in August, I managed to break up with him. But because he's so alone, I decided we should remain friends. He agreed but often would send me texts saying he wants me back in his life, and explain that he's changed. I do see a few signs that he's changed, but I can't go back to him because I really don't love him and I don’t think I can grow to love him either. I have told him that maybe later at some point we can try again. He says he understands and that it’s OK, but I know deep down he doesn't want to wait. He has brought up how he needs me back, and tries to manipulate me into his life again, implying he'll have a breakdown and hurt himself. I absolutely want nothing to do with this guy, but I can't stop myself from feeling sorry for him. I really want to know how I get out of this mess that I feel so trapped in.

– Trapped


It's time to set a better boundary. You have never been interested in a romantic relationship with this person, but you stick around because you feel responsible for his mental health. You're not. He is manipulative. He is using his problems to trap you where you no longer want to be. If he's threatening to hurt himself because you're gone, you're not the person who can fix this.

If you want to learn more about this behavior (and I recommend you do), you can call organizations – a simple hotline – to help. They'll talk to you about what the threat means, consider everyone's safety, and help you with next steps. I also recommend asking you doctor about mental heath assistance for yourself; it could help you deal with whatever guilt you feel for moving on.

As you proceed, step away from the forced friendship. You're not helping him by giving him false hope or by sticking around. See how many days you can go without checking in, and ask friends, family, and any loved ones to be there for you as you move ahead.

Good relationships aren't built on guilt. Let this be a real breakup.

– Meredith

Readers? How does one break this kind of cycle?