Girlfriend with terminally ill mother - lie to her, or dump her?

Crass, perhaps, but more or less where I’m at. The situation: my girlfriend and I have been together almost two years, now. And I’m kind of over the relationship. Actually, no, I’m pretty damned over it. I’m starting to get that ‘things that used to be cute are annoying’ feeling, and conversation’s become a chore - mostly because, while we have some superficially similar interests, the things we want to talk about are very different, and I really, really don’t care what her friend who moved to Pennsylvania did last week. I guess it’s been a while since I started feeling that it was time to move on, perhaps six months or so.

Unfortunately, around the same time, her mother was diagnosed with a terminal, life-altering disease, and is, while not quite vegetative, not really the same person anymore. She’s an invalid, doesn’t talk much and doesn’t make sense when she does talk. My girlfriend being an only child, it’s been pretty rough on her dealing with that, especially at a time when she’d been planning on going to grad school and doing her own thing. She’s moved back in with her parents, which is an hour plus away from where I live (which is also where her school and work are).

So, I’ve stuck around, because I do care about her, and up until now that’s outweighed my feelings that I wasn’t in love with her anymore. But lately, it’s been tipping the other way, and I’m torn as to what to do. On the one hand, I’d feel like a total ass dumping her while her mother is dying, and I’m part of her support network (not to mention the purely practical fact that she stays at my place when she has work here in the morning). On the other hand, it goes completely against my ideals (and what I, in theory, would want) to lie to her about how I feel. If I tell her I love her, I’m lying, or at least deceiving her - I suppose I do love her, insofar as love equates to caring, but I’m not in love with her any more.

Also, on a purely selfish note, I don’t know how long this will continue, and of course, dumping her right after her mother dies would probably be worse. Plus, I don’t really feel comfortable talking about this with people who have to deal with both of us, since that puts them in a pretty awkward position.

TLDR version: Girlfriend has dying mother - dump her, or stay with her and lie when I say I love her?

One of my closest friends from work just died of breast cancer, and her boyfriend dumped her almost simultaneously with her getting the news that she had it, about four years ago. I thought this guy was a total shit, even if (pre-cancer) she was a high-maintenance GF and he might have been just about ready to move on in any event.

But now, I don’t think that badly of him. If he was on the way out, and I think he was, what use would he have been in her tough times? Not much, to my mind. Rather than hanging around and resenting the hell out of my friend, he might have done her some good by breaking up with her at a critical time in her short life, and allowing her to focus on the other parts of her life without dealing with a protracted failing relationship as well.

That’s all I’ve got.

If I were in your GF’s position, I would want to know sooner rather than later, so she can feel free to spend as much time with her family as she is able to, without feeling she still needs to spend additional time with you, which will ultimately be a kindness for all concerned—her, her family, as well as you.

Of course, I am sure you will be as kind and tactful as possible when you tell her you want to stop seeing her, which will make it easier for her to move on.

Good luck to you both.

Gritting your teeth and lying to her is going to be more destructive in the long run. I’ve never heard of a “wait till they’re in better place before breaking up” decision turning out better than ending it when it needs to be ended.

Plus, despite her situation re her mother, on a strictly demographic basis a woman’s most productive years for acquiring a marriageable partner (if that’s what she wants) are right about now for her. Being a place keeper that has no intention of moving forward is kind of unfair to her. You need to let her go so she can find a soul mate vs someone who is staying out of pity.

Break up with her. No matter how good of an actor you are, she’ll sense that the relationship isn’t going well and it will be an additional cause of stress for her. You’re not doing her any favors by having a fake relationship with her throughout her mother’s illness and death and then breaking up with her after that.

If you’ve been feeling this way for six months, chances are she already suspects something is up. You really owe it to her to be honest. While getting dumped obviously sucks, it’s so much worse when you realize that someone only stayed with you out of pity, or because they didn’t have the balls to break it off. She doesn’t need the added stress of wondering what’s going on with you, or the pain of realizing you only stayed out of pity.

All good advice. Its good to see that here. Of course, be as nice as possible, and tell her to call as a friend if she needs to, I think that would be okay.

Any chance you’re evolved enough to both break up with her, gently, and yet continue to be part of her support system?

Being there for her if she needs to talk, or cry. Letting her stay over when she has to work? Running errands, driving her around etc?

Any chance you can resist her need for physical affection to overcome her lowest moments?

Can you still be a true friend to her, at her Mom’s bedside holding her hand, giving her comfort still?

If you are, I admire you very deeply. If you’re not, please don’t be tempted to try. Her circumstance demand a clean break in that case.

While you’re trying to be clever and snarky here with the snide “any chance you’re evolved enough” and “any chance you can resist her need for physical affection to overcome her lowest moments” comments, each relationship is different, and trying to be a buddy after the fact is fraught with difficulties for both men and women. Making a clean break without trying to be buddies after the fact is probably less emotionally damaging in many cases than remaining as a presence in their lives even for “evolved” people.

I was not trying to be snarky and snide. I assure you I was being completely sincere.

Because that would be ideal for her and you both. I understand it would not be easy and not everyone would be capable of such a thing and that switching from lovers to friends would be fraught with difficulties.

There are people capable of such difficult things, even if they’re not in the majority. I’ve been fortunate to know a couple in my life.

I did not mean to offend with the word ‘evolved’ it just seemed an appropriate way to describe them.

Again, my apologies for offending, it was not my intent, sorry if I hit a nerve.


I took what you said exactly how you meant it. I’ve rarely ever had a bad break up and for me it would be very easy to continue to allow an ex to stay over when working or be supportive and STILL sever the relationship portion. Of course, I know folks who can not do that.

OP: Please let the woman go. As someone who was in several long term relationships that were ultimately, shorter than life-term, let her go. Someone out there won’t get tired of her, will wonder about her friend and won’t stop. Let her find them.
I’ve never understood why anyone would think staying in a doomed relationship is somehow better. Although having a parent in a terminal state is probably the best reason I’ve ever heard.

I think you’re getting some good advice here. This can be your theme song.

Agree with all. break it off as nicely as you can and remain a friend if that can work.

I’ll spare you the long-ass story of Why My Nephew Spent Two Months Making Sure Which Relatives Were There To Stay and add another vote for “break up the bf/gf but stay a shoulder to lean on if and only if that’s viable.”

When you break up with her, let her know that you know it’s not a good time, that you’re sorry to have to do it now, but that you don’t want to lead her on. I mean, you’ve spent two years with her, you have to be concerned for her and care for her on some level. Be gentle and acknowledge that this isn’t a good time. You know you’re hurting her, etc. and you’re sorry.

If I were in her shoes, I’d want you to break up with me now.

Other people above have suggested that she already has a clue that something is up and that continuing on will cause her a lot of stress. I totally agree. She’s already dealing with enough uncertainty due to her mother’s illness. Don’t make her deal with uncertainty about your relationship.

All right, I’m convinced. Thanks for all the replies - I suppose I’d gotten myself thinking that the course that would make me feel best (which would be ending the relationship), would be selfish, and that I should go the other way, and hearing people tell me otherwise helped. It’s hard, because while I’m not really into the relationship, I do care about her quite a bit, and I hate the idea of removing some of her emotional support right now. Still, I suppose it’ll never really get easier to do that, and the eventual pain would be worse for a prolonged period of deception. We’re going to dinner tomorrow, so I think I’ll just strike while the iron’s hot and all that, and do it right after.

Add me to the list of people who think prolonging a dead relationship never goes particularly well. You might get some attitude from other people who hear about you breaking up with her while her mother lay dying, but things happen when they happen - you obviously didn’t chose to fall out of love with her at a bad time, and your concern for doing the right thing is something you can remind yourself of if people do give you a hard time.

What if she’s being hit on by one of mom’s Dr.s, and there she is, being faithful to you? And there you are-she can see the bitter pain you feel at her mom’s sickness, and how it has even effected your relationship with her!
Drop her, for HER benefit. And yours. You’ll both be very happy.

Best wishes,


Well, did you do it?