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Not sure about 5 year relationship... What do I really want?
April 28, 2014 11:20 PM   Subscribe

I am 21 and my boyfriend is almost 23. We have been together since I was a sophomore and he a senior in high school. He's a good guy, a gentleman, and takes great care of me and his family is wonderful. Sometimes I feel like I'm not actually even that into him though, and have never have been. But why leave when there's nothing really wrong and he's so great to me and I really care for him? Am I taking him for granted?

I know I asked a question like this before but I feel like I didn't explain everything very well. Id like I explain myself more clearly here. My boyfriend and I met when we were very young. He is basically my first actual serious relationship. I am his first girlfriend, first kiss, everything. I had friends prior to dating him but when we started dating I pretty much didn't keep up any friendships. I am a shy and to myself person anyways. He is also shy and quiet. He didn't really hang out with anyone either. I slowly lost all friends and he went to college where he didn't know anyone and we became each other's only friend.

I feel really guilty for feeling like this but actually when we first started going out I wasn't sure that I actually liked him. When he asked me to be his girlfriend I feel like I said yes so I didn't hurt his feelings. I know this was a horrible thing to do. I have grown to love him though, I really do care for him and think he's a good person. We are very attatched to one another. His family is amazing to me.

I am not close to my family and they are very dysfunctional. I have depression and social anxiety and low self confidence. I am working on these things.

We have talked about marriage in the past couple years. He tells me He wants to marry me. I smtold him that I do too. Intellectually I think he's good for me. But somehow I feel like it's not what I really want, I've never been excited about it. I feel so incredibly guilty and selfish for not really letting him know this..... My doubts about wanting to be with him really got to me over last summer and I ended up breaking up with him in October. I decided that I didn't want to continue the relationship if I wasn't 100% sure and committed. I felt like I wasn't done dating and didn't want to spend my young years already feeling bored and like I was married. I felt like I lost my identity in the relationship just when I was forming one when I was in high school. When I broke up with him I felt like I was doing the right thing. I didn't actually feel all that sad, Which I thought was really strange. During that time I hung out with old high school friends, went to a couple parties, experimented with marijuana a couple times and got drunk for the first time, things no one would ever think I would do. I also left my job of five years and started a new one. I was under extreme stress and felt extremely depressed and anxious. I felt like my high school fiends and I changed a lot and I didn't want to have the lifestyle they did. We stopped hanging out.

I started talking to my then ex again, I realized what he added to my life and that I missed him and slowly and we eventually got back together in January. But now the doubts are back. We haven't really talked about the break up that much, he says that I pretend like it didn't happen, I'm still confused as to what happened as it feel like two completely different people when I'm with him and who I was during that time with my friends...

We both live at home currently. I have attended community college for three years now and am about to transfer to a state university in my area, (if I can pick a major...). My boyfriend is actually one year away from gettig his pharmacy degree, which is so so awesome for him. The plan is to move in together after he graduates and gets a job. But why am I not excited? I'm seriously confused about this and feel so so guilty for feeling this way, I really wish I didn't... I feel like such a selfish person...
posted by anon1129 to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
The pain, shame, and guilt in your questions is really painful to witness. I can't and won't tell you what to do with your relationship, but I *must* tell you that there's nothing wrong with being ambivalent or having doubts. It is A-okay, developmentally normal, completely reasonable, to wonder what else is out there, and whether this relationship is what you want for the rest of your life. There's nothing particularly selfish about questioning your life choices at 21.

Please don't think I'm saying you're too young to decide what you want. You are an adult. But. You haven't been an adult for very long, you don't have a lot of life experience, and it's a big commitment. You'd be doing both of you a disservice if you didn't at least entertain some questions about what you want out of your life. So stop torturing yourself with guilt and shame, and give yourself permission to consider all of your options. (Maybe reread some of those answers from before - there were a lot of wise things said.)

One thing it took me a long time to figure out is that, even when you make a bad life decision, mooooost of the time things eventually work out okay. There are very few genuinely wrong answers to "What do I want?", and you are the ultimate arbiter of what's right and wrong for you - anyone who thinks they know better is a controlling jerk. Believe in yourself.
posted by gingerest at 11:46 PM on April 28 [7 favorites]


I think you need to divorce the problems of your relationship and your lack of your own identity. You can, despite popular opinion, stay in a relationship while expanding your circle of friends and interests, while growing and changing, while.pursuing your own goals and dreams. And those are things you absolutely 100% must do to grow up.

Whether or not you stay in this relationship is secondary to getting your own life. Right now you've got this weird dichotomy going on where you're like this one person with a man and like this different person single and that's not healthy. You need to be the same person all the time.
posted by fshgrl at 12:10 AM on April 29 [4 favorites]


Wanting to be happy and live your life is not selfish. You are only going to be young once. Go away to college unburdened with a relationship that doesn't make you happy. Maybe when you finish school, you'll be in a different place. My sister split up with her high school bf when she went to school, and then they got back together when she graduated -- they've been married for eight years and have two kids, now.
posted by empath at 1:44 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


I've been there. Those feelings don't go away twenty years down the road. They just get worse as you watch all opportunities slip away with age.
For me, it was because I didn't believe in love and thought it was a hollywood scam. I thought this feeling was the best I could get and there wasn't any good reason to break up, just because I wasn't that into him and the sex was meh. I was wrong. I have read somewhere that this is actually pretty common for women. So don't let the shame stop you from owning up and getting out of this relationship.
Get out while the stakes are low. Find someone you are excited about. That's what relationships are about. You'll regret it forever if you don't.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:12 AM on April 29 [8 favorites]


While I would perhaps counsel you to leave this relationship, I might just be projecting because that's what I would've done when I was your age (in fact, I did do exactly that at age 21 and did not regret it).

I think my feelings are the same as fshgrl's - whether or not you try to make it work with this guy, please think about ways to treat your anxiety/depression as your immediate priority, closely followed by finding friends and activities you enjoy at your new college.

Maybe, once the fog of depression has lifted and you can see the opportunities that lie ahead of you, you will also feel some clarity regarding your relationship.
posted by dumdidumdum at 5:16 AM on April 29


You are VERY young. You have a lot of great things ahead of you, you should be walking through open doors, not closing them.

A relationship should not be an escape, and that's what yours is to you right now. You escape your family dysfunction, you escape your anxiety, you escape your depression and although you've escaped, you can't help but feel that you're still not getting what you want.

Your BF sound like a great guy. But he's not the guy you want to marry. That is okay. You just need to be honest about it.

I think that you need to see a doctor about your depression and anxiety. If your school offers counseling services, why not visit these topics with someone who can walk you through some thought exercises to help you understand what you really want.

Our desires change over time. It is incredibly rare that the people and things that make us happy when we are 16, are the same 10 years later, or 20 years later.

That feeling you have is real and true, don't silence it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:46 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


You think you missed out on being young and reckless and irresponsible. You want that; it's called college for a lot of people.

Can you get that by making new friends and getting really high and having lots of crazy adventures? Do you need to hook up with some strangers? I don't know.

But it's possible that's what you're missing, and you might be able to remedy that while inside this relationship, as long as you do a better job carving out space for yourself.

It's also possible that you need to leave this relationship to grow. Or that this guy simply isn't right for you. But if you want, you can try to fix your life within this relationship first.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:52 AM on April 29


I wish that someone had told me, after I started dating a guy because he basically kept following me around and wouldn't leave me alone, that it's okay to not be with someone just because you don't want to be with them, that you don't need a "good reason," that "I'm just not interested" is something that should be respected. If you, OP, need to hear someone tell you that, I'm telling you right now. When my sister started seeing someone, I wasn't immediately enamored with him so I asked her what she liked about him and she said, "He's nice to me." I almost yelled at her that that's the minimum we should accept from a friend, let alone a romantic partner.

You have low self-confidence, anxiety and depression. What makes you feel proud of yourself? What would make you feel proud of yourself? I feel proud of myself when I work out and when I volunteer so when I'm feeling especially down, I try to do those things. I also make an effort to try new things because that's hard so I should feel proud of myself when I do that. So I'd encourage you to try to think of some things that would make you feel proud of yourself and work towards them. Work on becoming the person you want to be. Confidence will follow and then you can decide what to do about the relationship.
posted by kat518 at 6:38 AM on April 29 [5 favorites]


You are thinking of committing your entire future to this guy because it will make him feel bad if you don't. That's just nuts; I know it's hard to see that from inside the situation, but I promise you that once you break it off (which you're almost certain to at some point, if not now then a decade or two down the line when it will be much harder and cause much more pain) you will feel a tremendous sense of relief and will be surprised at how quickly you get on with your life and find other people. I speak as someone who almost married a woman when I was just out of college; it hurt when we broke off the engagement (it was a mutual decision), but I knew immediately it was the right thing to do. Years later, I married another woman; we were happy for some years, and then we weren't, and we got divorced. That was much more painful, and it took a while to get over it, but I did. What I'm trying to say is, cutting the ties will hurt for a bit, but you will be glad you did it, and the sooner you do it the sooner you can move on and find a relationship that won't make you feel like this. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by languagehat at 7:10 AM on April 29


You don't have any obligation to feel things you don't feel. He's not for you and you aren't doing a thing wrong by acknowledging it.

I've gone along with a relationship I wasn't excited about for no other reason than "Why not?" and I regret the lost time. I could have been enjoying my single life or meeting someone rather than coasting along with someone that wasn't right for me. If you haven't warmed up to him to the point that you're in love and want to be with him, it's probably not going to happen. Make a clean break while you're still so very young.
posted by mermily at 8:00 AM on April 29


Momentum is a hard thing to fight, but when it's pushing you towards something (or someone) you do not want, you have to.

You're with him basically because you have almost always been with him and because he's a good guy. That's not enough to sustain long term. It only gets harder from here. Leave now. You will be glad you did, I swear it.
posted by inturnaround at 8:02 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


But why leave when there's nothing really wrong and he's so great to me and I really care for him?

Because you're 21 and not that into him.
Please believe me when I say that the world is your Oyster!!
posted by JenThePro at 10:10 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


Why leave him when there is nothing really wrong and you care for him? Because your gut is telling you to do it Always listen to your gut, not your fear.
posted by cherrybounce at 10:19 AM on April 29


Why leave him? Because you're not that into him. Being in a relationship with someone you're just not that into is not fair to you and it's not fair to him either.

I had a really similar relationship to you--my first relationship began when I was 15 and we dated on and off (but never really off) until I was 21. There came a point where I just wasn't excited about seeing him, I thought he was a good friend, and just thought maybe that's what a relationship is.

I kinda mentally slapped myself in the face and reminded myself that I was 21 years old and "good enough, I guess?" was not the kind of relationship I wanted to have for the rest of my life and we broke up.

I still care about him as a friend, we still see each other from time to time, he's generally a decent person who was supportive and kind when I needed it back then. But I don't regret ending our relationship for one second.

Think of it this way: do you think he would still want to be with you (and discussing marriage and living together) if he read your post? Your feelings don't make you a bad person or a selfish person at all--it just means that this might not be the right relationship for you.
posted by inertia at 10:43 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


After many messed-up relationships, I finally came up with this guideline for myself, which has never been wrong: the only possible answers to "do I want to build a relationship with this person?" are HELL YES and NO.

There is no in-between. If the answer is not "hell yes" then it is NO. Even if there are good things about your partner and the relationship. The gray area where you're talking yourself into staying with someone is 100% crap.

You deserve a "hell yes" relationship. It won't be perfect, nothing is, but it will feel different than this thing you're trying to talk yourself into.
posted by jessicapierce at 1:14 PM on April 29 [3 favorites]


Caring for someone is not the same as being in love with them. It sounds like you care for this person very much, but you are not in love with him. If you're not in love with him, you should let him go so he can meet someone who will feel that way about him. Bonus: letting him go makes room in your life for a relationship that you actually do want to be in. And doesn't that sound a thousand times better than limping along in a relationship that isn't right, where no one's needs are really being met?
posted by palomar at 3:24 PM on April 29


I mean we are compatible in some ways, we like doing similar things like working out, doing outdoorsy things, etc. he is going to have an awesome career, he's so nice and supportive towards me, always so comforting, good with money, such a gentleman, we have great sex, kind of want the same things out of life... One thing we don't have in common is his sense of humor is a lot different than mine, and I don't really did him funny even though he prides himself on being funny. I also get frequently annoyed with him, he's passive like me and sometimes I wish he would take charge and not be so timid. When we broke up I hung out with a guy from work a couple times and we had great conversations, and I genuinely thought he was funny and we had a lot of fun, it just reminded me how important having a similar sense of fun is. Idk, the other night when we had a couple beers at dinner he brought up that he doesn't know if he trusts me yet and doesn't know why I got back with him and thinks I lie to him. I felt so bad. Whenever he asks me about our future and I say I would marry him it just feels like I'm lying to him. He's like the only comfort I have in my life, it would be really scary to break up again because it would probably be the last time, idk if I could handle it... I feel bad even entertaining the thought
posted by anon1129 at 7:16 PM on April 29


Staying with someone when you don't like them any more is actually a crappy thing to do to that person. If you're worried about being selfish, the most selfish thing you can do here is keep stringing him along with false hope or a fake idea about your relationship.

You have a sick feeling in your stomach about the relationship. Sounds like he does too. He doesn't make you happy. I bet you don't really make him happy either. You're walking around guilty all the time. This is no good.

I don't see any indication that you actually want any future with him. Only that you feel guilty about wanting out and are scared about how things will be different when he's gone. Those are bad reasons to stay in a relationship. Do yourself a favor, and do him a favor too. End it, and this time make it stick.
posted by mattu at 9:12 PM on April 29 [3 favorites]


Whenever he asks me about our future and I say I would marry him it just feels like I'm lying to him.

That's because you are, and you're going to break up with him eventually, anyway. To be honest, doing it when you go away to school is the easiest way to do it, because then it's not really anyone's fault -- here is your script:

"I feel like I'm too young to be making a big commitment, and I want to have some time on my own when I go away to school and figure out who I really am. Maybe when I come back, we'll both be different people and ready to commit to each other, but I don't feel like I can do that right now."

Not saying it's going to go swimmingly, but if you're being honest with yourself, you probably realize he already knows its coming.
posted by empath at 6:49 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Thank you everyone. I have been thinking this over obsessively for the past few days and I think that breaking up is the right thing to do. We are not right for eachother, I know someone else would e able to appreciate him much more. I think we both have a lot of growing up to do and I feel like I want to do that growing without catering to a significant others expectations, if that makes sense. I don't feel like I'm in a good place to make a commitment or be tied down anyway at this point in my life, an I don't want to regret not useing this time of youth and opportunity wisely. I realize that I need other things and people in my life to make me happy. But I don't think my boyfiends would really add to that honestly. I know what I want. My gut feeling is telling me to leave him.

I realize that my depression is probably going to get worse because I basically have no other support system. I realize that I'm going to need to build my life and my identity from the ground up. But it's something I feel inspired to do, and our relationship does not inspire me I work on it. I actually contacted my insurance company as I'm on dad's insurance and have a counseling appointment next week. I also got an appointment with a psychiatrist for next week as well. I was always against meds but I'm going to try them as I really feel I can't do this through my own willpower as deep as I am in my depression.

Thanks everyone. The support and wise words I've received have really been amazing. What a great community
posted by anon1129 at 11:24 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Second update, we broke up. I really wasn't expecting that to happen so quickly...

We went to my friends 21st birthday party and I had a few drinks. We got into an argument and left after things had been kinda tense between us all night. He brought up why he doesn't even know why we're back together and I was drunk enough to spill my guts and tell him that I've been thinking about breaking up. We finally talked about all of our problems for once, because we were both more open after drinking and decided we weren't right for each other and that we needed to break up. He said now he finally understands what happened between us because the first time he didn't know why I wanted to break up. He just left my house. So.....that's that.
posted by anon1129 at 4:55 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


Wow. Big step. Big hug.

Are you ok?
Do you have someone to talk to?
posted by Omnomnom at 7:05 AM on May 3


I am ok. I feel like last night really brought me some clarity. I don't feel all that sad yet or anything, I mean I kind of knew it was a long long time coming... We talked amicably, and we both agreed to break up so it wasn't like a huge fight or anything. The friends at the party last night want to talk again. And I have a counseling and psychiatrist appointment for next week. But it honestly felt like the right way to end things, though it should have happened long before. That's my thoughts on it now at least. Thank you :)
posted by anon1129 at 9:11 AM on May 3


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