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Ask Alina – How to Tell a Boyfriend You Have No Long-Term Future

Dear Ask Alina,

I have been dating a man for the past five years but our relationship has been volatile and unstable pretty much the entire time. We argue ugly, break up often, and make up passionately. We love each other, but we are a bad influence on each other. Lately he has been bugging me about taking the next step in our relationship by moving in together and eventually starting a family. I know deep in my heart that he is not the man I should be making a long-term commitment to. We are from very different religions and cultures, and there is absolutely no way my family will accept him or our future children. This relationship is not worth creating conflict over with my family because I agree with where my family stands as far as the religion. How do I tell him that we have no future?


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Dear Amy,

Telling your boyfriend there is no future can be scary, especially if you want to avoid conflict in an already volatile relationship. Being honest about your feelings can also bring on guilt because you know that you are about to hurt the person you care about.

Below I will share with you some ideas of how to approach this conversation gently and honestly, while maintaining your integrity and personal values.

  • Consider the time and location for this conversation. Avoid bringing up this topic during an argument, when other people are around, or when he is busy and not focusing on you. Maybe you can bring this up while the two of you are sitting at a table having a meal and are not in a rush.
  • Be honest and direct. Start the conversation with being honest about your feelings. It is important to be clear and direct and avoid mixed messages. Use “I” statements to express how you feel, and avoid pointing blame on him. Start off the conversation with something like, “I have been doing a lot of thinking…” Share what you appreciate about the relationship and what you appreciate about your boyfriend in particular. Make a direct statement that you are not committed to this relationship. Say something like, “I made my decision that I do not want to move in together, because this relationship does not meet my long-term needs.”
  • Share your concerns. Be straightforward. Comment about the volatility and instability in your relationship. Be honest about how the excessive arguing contributed to your decision.
  • Talk about cultural and religious differences. Bring up the fact that you come from different cultures and religions. Express your values about your religion and culture and the importance these have on your long-term future and building your own family.  Express that this is a significant factor in your decision. Avoid bringing your family’s viewpoint into the conversation.
  • Listen to his reactions. After you express your feelings, allow him to share his thoughts and feelings. Give him space to react and respond without interrupting. Avoid arguing or denying his feelings. Remain calm, respectful, and empathetic. Reiterate that you care about him and that your decision is not a reflection of his character but more of your personal needs and desires.

If your goal is to continue dating but not move further along in this relationship, be clear about that, but be prepared that this conversation may lead to a break-up. If the conversation becomes volatile, respectfully ask that each of you take time to reflect on your own and come back the following day to continue the conversation.

My rule of thumb is to never take a break from a conversation like this for more than 24 hours. Give enough time for cooling off and self-reflection but come back to the discussion while it is still fresh and focused.

Having a controversial discussion in an unstable relationship is very difficult. Please know it is truly important to prioritize your own well-being and longer-term happiness. While it may be tough in the short term, both of you deserve the opportunity to be with a partner who is aligned in your values.

Alina Baugh is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Ask Alina is for informational purposes only. This article does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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