Red Responds: Finding the Courage to Leave

Rose in Elgin writes:

I’ve been with my boyfriend for four years. I’ve been very confused lately in regards to whether or not I should stay with him. He’s 28, I’m 22. We started a business together three years ago and it’s growing, except, I feel like, although I care a lot for him, I do not feel he’s the one. Not to mention, he’s gotten me into a lot of debt that to this day just keeps growing. I’ve been telling him I’m going to leave, but I can’t find the courage to do it.

I would lose a good man, my business and the power I feel through managing people. I told him we could stay as business partners and he refuses to accept. There’s a side of me that wants to be single, independent and live on my own, and there’s a side of me that’s scared to death to be living by myself after having someone for so long. I’m scared of feeling powerless if I leave my business. I just don’t feel that attraction to him anymore, plus with all the time we dedicate to the business we haven’t dedicated enough time to the relationship – although we both love the business. I don’t want to hurt him, I’ve told him many times it’s over and he thinks I’m joking. I’m not strong enough to leave… I would appreciate any suggestions.

Dear Rose,

You’re not only confused, but you are also overwhelmed by the thoughts of how your future will unfold. But, here’s the deal – at some point you have to find the strength to start directing your life, rather than simply going along with the flow.

Your boyfriend isn’t a bad guy, but you have surrendered way too much control of your life to him. You need to take some of that back, or you won’t be able to create the changes your soul is yearning for. It will be complicated and difficult, but there comes a time when you need to put what is best for you as a higher priority than your boyfriend’s feelings. Start taking some “me” time. He’s not going to like it, but he’ll get over it. You are an adult, and have a right to make decisions for yourself.

Another thing that you absolutely have to do, and is going to cause a great deal of conflict, is separate your finances. Money is one of the ways he can control you, and keep you close. Since you have debt in your name it is only right that you also have positive accounts in your name. Sure, there are shared expenses that you will have to contribute to, but not all of your income needs to go where he directs. Understand the word “NO!” is a very powerful statement. Your boyfriend can only pull you into more debt if YOU allow it. So, don’t. Focus on clearing up your financial burdens, or at least getting them into a more manageable place.

I’m really hoping I’m wrong or missing something on this point – but I’m not seeing your name in a power position relative to your business. Even though you started it together, it seems as if it wasn’t set up as a true partnership. Ownership seems to be attached to your boyfriend. Regardless of whether or not that is the case, I strongly encourage you to consult an attorney to find out where you stand legally. If you know your rights and recourses, you can at least develop a plan of what you need to do, in the event you decide to leave him or the business.

This man loves you, and doesn’t want to let you go. If you don’t want to be there, his feelings shouldn’t be enough to make you stay. Leaving him will hurt him, no matter when you decide to do it, if you choose to follow through with that decision. I can’t tell you what to do, I can only tell you what I see you doing. As of this moment, I don’t see you breaking away. Even though you have outgrown him and this relationship, it looks like you are going to stay. This is your free-will choice – one that you can change at any point in time. But, even in the confines of this relationship, you can still learn and grow by standing up for yourself, and take control over the things you have the power to change, such as your time, finances, and personal decisions. Master that, and being on your own may not seem so scary down the road, because you will know that you can handle yourself and your life.

Good luck,
Ext. 9226

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