How do you stay in a relationship when you know there's a very good chance it might end soon? [Siberian winter's worth of snowflakes inside.]
(People invovled are both 30. Sorry for the length and the pronoun game. Summary at bottom.)
Together 1.5yrs, essentially living together for about a year. Things got pretty serious pretty quickly, and I was happy in a easy, calm, deep way that I had never experienced before. Despite our closeness, the relationship had always been a little different in that there were always other people (roommates, close friends & family, etc) around. Very recently, the situation changed such that it's more just the 2 of us, and I was excited to see how we'd get on as a "regular" couple.
Suddenly one day, my partner tells me they're not sure what they want in the future, with regard to career or family. They're not even sure they see ME in their long-term future. I guess my partner had been getting questions about whether I would move in "for real" (I currently still have my own condo) and this got them thinking. Their only other serious relationship got dragged out in a bad way because they kept flip-flopping on whether they wanted to be with the ex, and not wanting to repeat that, they wanted to talk to me about how they were feeling, even though our relationship is (in their eyes) much better than that previous one.
This was heartbreaking -- I had NO IDEA they were feeling this way. They said when we first started dating, they thought we would get married, because ours was the best relationship they had ever experienced. But as time passed, that wasn't the default assumption any more. I asked if they had to imagine it -- right now -- did they see me in their future? More towards yes, no, or completely unknown? They said it was more towards "no", but that it wasn't like they couldn't imagine a future with me at all. They love me, consider me their best friend, and don't want to lose me, but they just don't know if they love me in that "forever" way. No, there wasn't anything specific about me (i.e., that I could work on) that made them feel this way, and no, they didn't want to break up.
I was really hurt, because I truly thought that we had what it took to go the distance, and was so damn self-assured that my partner felt the same way. I considered just breaking up with them right then, because while that would hurt like a motherfucker, I'd get over it eventually (I hope?) and not drag out the pain. BUT. I do love them, and they are wonderful to me. They're sweet and thoughtful and patient and affectionate. They're whip-smart and funny. The sex is great, we have fun together, and when we have our rare fights, we fight fairly.
They asked me to stay, because it seems stupid to give up if there's a good chance things could work out. After deliberating, I decided to stay and try, because this is by far the best relationship I had ever been in, and if I just leave now, I'll always wonder whether we would have made it if I had just been patient. And that's not a "what-if" that I can live with. My partner seemed really relieved and happy with my decision, and said they would try to make it work too.
In the meantime, I'm all over the place. There are times when I hurt like we already broke up, even though we're still together. I want badly for this to work out, even though I know that if their heart ends up not in this, then they are in fact not right for me. Half of me is devoted to trying my best to make this work, while the other half keeps "hedging my bets" -- coming up with reasons why we might not actually be compatible (which feels like post-hoc justification, because they didn't seem like "problems" until my partner dropped this bomb on me), not talking about us as a couple in front of friends and new acquaintances (because we may very well not be a couple much longer), etc.
Am I being stupid? Nuts? Has anyone gone through this kind of thing and actually had it work out? How do I keep being normal and loving with the doubt of "they kind of can't see me in their future" hanging over me? How do I "work" at this when there's nothing concrete to actually work on? (Ex, it's not like they said I lost my temper too much, and so I should go to anger management therapy or something.)
- Partner tells me they might not really see me in their future.
- But they want us to keep dating and try, because they're not sure they don't see me in their future, and our relationship is otherwise very good.
- I have decided to stay because I love them and because wondering "what-if" is not acceptable to me.
- Have you been through something like this? How do I make it through the next months and stay sane?
- How do I balance my desire to "give it my all" (what's the point, otherwise?) with my inclination to pull back (out of an attempt to minimize suffering if we do break up)?
- What are things I (or we) can do to maximize our chance of success?
Thanks in advance, metafilter.
* In fact, I didn't want to officially move in, because I wanted to see how it would be when it was just the 2 of us, and I wanted to clarify where they thought the relationship was headed before making that kind of choice. Which is exactly what they did, actually. I should be careful what I ask for.