D writes: Hello What If.
Here's my problem. I have been in a relationship with a really nice guy for 4 years now. We are good friends, we have lots in common and get along really well. He is super sweet, the ice to my fire. He's just fine, nothing at all wrong with him. I'd describe our relationship as vanilla pudding.
Recently I came into contact with someone I've known since 4th grade. We were friends, but then he had to go do his bad boy thing and we fell out of contact.
Now I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that I had a kiddie crush on him in elementary, and then a huge crush on him when I got older, but as things never worked out I just kind of gave up hope. Also, I'd like to say that I have never ever stopped thinking about him the whole time we were out of touch (7 years). In fact, I have had dreams about him over the years, and from talking to him recently, found out they were true dreams!
Anyway, I was ok with my relationship with my boyfriend until I came into contact with my old friend. Now I have the opportunity to see if we could work out. But should I?
I've spent so much time with my current boyfriend. We have so many threads of our lives entangled. All my family and all my friends just love him. We have cats together. And we do get along pretty darn well, and in case you're thinking I'm not attracted to him, that's not true, I am.
But I know that I don't love him as much as he loves me. I actually told him that once, and he's such a sweet man he just thought it was nonsense. But even though I feel affection for him, I know that I'd be just fine and dandy without him around.
This other guy, my long lost friend...I just adore him. I know a lot of the mistakes he's made in his life (and he's made some big ones) but I love love love him. I don't love him for who he may be someday, I love him as he is now. I don't care about his past, it's what makes him who he is. The problem is, we're not really as compatible as me and my boyfriend are!
I would describe my relationship with my boyfriend as the most excellent arranged relationship in the world. If for some reason I was being forced to be with him it would be ok. If we got married, we'd be fine. Moderately happy. I'd resent him sometimes because I'd feel like I sold out for convenience, but overall we'd have a happy enough life.
On the other hand, I can try with my long lost friend, see how it goes, and possibly get my heart broken or have it all lead nowhere and lose my good, safe relationship in the meantime.
What do you think?? Stay with my sure shot, who I do care for? Or go out on a limb, see what could happen in the scenario I know already will be rocky?
~D for Dichotomy
This is a question with more than one right answer. In no particular order, here are some scattered thoughts about it; see if anything strikes a chord. No matter what you choose to do, you will learn something.
Something to consider: the potential relationship you have with your old friend is pure fantasy. And the most compelling thing about fantasy is that it is perfect, perfect, perfect. Chances are, if you dump your boyfriend and pursue the old crush, even if it turns out the crush reciprocates, you’ll find yourself in another relationship with fading excitement. 4 years of anyone is enough time to settle into a routine. Keep that in mind when you’re evaluating potential futures.
One thing to do at this point is take this opportunity to check in with your current relationship for its own sake. You sound bored. Try talking to your partner about it. If you let him know you’re feeling restless and mundane in your relationship, the two of you might be able to stoke the fire you’re craving. If you’re feeling brave, let him know about your crush. While it might hurt him, it might also provoke the kinds of conversations that unearth whatever is subtly dissatisfying about your relationship. The way a relationship handles stress can either strengthen it or bust it apart—and it sounds like you need one or the other right now, and it doesn’t really matter which.
If you leave your boyfriend, you may or may not end up with the new guy. It’ll be hard and complicated and painful and difficult to explain, and then everyone will eventually heal. Something you will certainly gain is some freedom. Maybe that’s what you’re looking for.
Consider being with your current boyfriend for the rest of your life. Does that make you feel peaceful and happy, or filled with slight dread?
An option to consider, if you’re willing to be a little unconventional: some couples choose to maintain a committed relationship with each other while permitting other romantic relationships on the outside. It’s called polyamory, and it works very well for some people and absolutely horribly for others. If you and your boyfriend are open to it, it’s definitely something to enter into slowly, with much conversation and communication and patience, and a commitment to taking care of all parties involved and stopping if it gets too painful. It’s not an easy road, but if navigated successfully, then you get to have both your perfect relationship at home, and the thrill of satisfying your curiosity about the man you know isn’t right for you but you’ve dreamed about for years. If you choose to try, google it and spend some time together learning about ways to do it and common mistakes.
So…there are three right answers:
A) Stay and work on putting raisins and cinnamon into your current vanilla pudding relationship. (Yum!)
B) Leave, chase the delicious-looking molten chocolate cake that might give you food poisoning, fling yourself on the winds of fate, brace yourself for tears and see what happens.
C) Try to have your pudding and eat cake too, in an open, honest, consensual way.
There are two wrong answers, which I didn’t cover but may as well mention:
D) Pine silently and grow bitter.
As long as you stick with one of the first three, you’ll be fine. Really. Let us know how it goes.
As always, leave me comments! And write your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org!