A Classic Tale?
September 22, 2008 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Two men in love with one lucky lady. What things should I keep in mind when deciding how to move forward?

I am planning to sit with this situation as quietly as I can and not rush into any big decisions, but I would love some perspective on this unfamiliar position. One man broke up with me a year ago. We had a passionate, creative relationship. I was never totally sure I wanted to spend my life with him, but we definitely had something powerful and unique and inspiring. We broke up because he suddenly felt like it was the right thing to do, for reasons which were fairly vague even to him. We continued to be very close after breaking up, and the connection between us never diminished. However, I began to feel very anxious about how strongly I still felt for him, and needed some space to move on. I cut myself off completely for three months.

During that time, I reconnected with an old friend. We spend a huge amount of time together, and understand each other ridiculously well, and are on the same exact page regarding almost everything. I can see being together with this person for a long time, and he fits into my life and future plans seamlessly. The spark is different with him. It is more of a mellow, happy, laughter-filled desire to spend all my time with him, rather than the nuanced, passionate dance with the other man. There is no sign at all that his desire and affection and committment will wane in the slightest. He is sure of what he wants.

The other man now believes that our spark was too strong to ignore, and he is ready to do anything for me to be back in his life forever. I don't believe this is simply caused by me cutting him out of my life for awhile, but I realize it could be a factor. I would like to be fair to both people, and they both have full information about what is going on. My plan is to stay emotionally open to both, and see what I feel. But I'm sure this is a classic tale, and I imagine there are some pitfalls and things I should think about going forward. Any ideas of what to keep in mind? I'm 30 and plan to have kids, in case that seems relevant.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm confused: are you asking advice on how to build polyamorous or open relationships with both men simultaneously, or are you asking advice on how to date both men with an eye toward eventually choosing a monogamous relationship with one of them, or are you asking advice on how to choose one man for monogamous dating with an eye toward relationships?

Because each requires some different strategies. That said, two strategies that all of those paths have in common are:

- Listen to yourself.
- Listen to them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:44 AM on September 22, 2008

Your ex, with whom you shared a "passionate" but ultimately unsuccessful relationship, breaks up with you, but now that you're happy with someone else, wants you back. Big shock. If you reunited with him, what makes you think things will be different this time? If he's not providing some solid evidence that he's changed and concrete promises that he won't hurt you again, he's not worth your time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:46 AM on September 22, 2008 [14 favorites]

If you could contact the mods and give more information, that might help.

If you are sleeping exclusively with one, you need to either make up your mind quick, or let him know that you are considering jumping ship for the other one. If you are exclusive with one, the longer you do not tell him, you are really building up bad karma which will blow up when the person finds out what is going on behind his back.

Of course, if you are not physical with either man, then you have a tough decision ahead of you. Resist the temptation to string this out for good feelings. When either find out about the situation, you will find that one or both may lose interest, and even if they do not, lingering trust issues may make it impossible to connect with either. Nothing kills the feeling of love like the searing pain of a deep feeling of betrayal. From experience, the biggest pain is when you cannot retrieve a situation you screwed up yourself and someone you love withdraws affection because they associated feeling attracted to you with feeling hurt and betrayed.

I would not consider your situation lucky. I think you may need to reevaluate that conclusion.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:50 AM on September 22, 2008

OK upon re-read I see both know what is going on. My advice basically stands--do not give in to the temptation to string this out as long as you can while making what must be a difficult decision. Do not take for granted that the feelings of the new guy.

There is no sign at all that his desire and affection and committment will wane in the slightest. He is sure of what he wants.

Nothing makes desire wane like the feeling that you aren't getting what you want out of a relationship. Do not take his feelings for granted. That is your biggest danger.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:53 AM on September 22, 2008

Ironmouth - the third sentence of the last paragraph reads, "and they both have full information about what is going on".
posted by muddgirl at 10:54 AM on September 22, 2008

My gut says to stay with the new guy.
posted by Citrus at 11:00 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ironmouth - the third sentence of the last paragraph reads, "and they both have full information about what is going on".

We don't, though.

There's a big difference between "I'm casually dating these two guys, but all of us know that eventually I'm going to choose one to pursue a monogamous relationship with, and let the other one know that I wish him well but we can't go on as dates/lovers/whatever" and "I'm casually dating these two guys, and all of us know that my goal is to pursue each relationship as far as it goes, because I'm polyamorous and they're down with that."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:02 AM on September 22, 2008

The pitfall is that man who wants you, makes you happy, and with whom you could imagine spending the rest of your life potentially with - that man you are considering turning down in favor of one who dumped you "for reasons which were fairly vague even to him" and who only wants you back when he's no longer in the powerful position of dictating your sex life. (I mean, come on... breaks up with you, but suddenly feels differently when you're no longer doting solely on him?)

If you want to move forward with considering both, I would seriously think about coming up with a meaningful list of what your ex needs to show you to make you believe he is being sincere and has changed his shitty, shitty behavior.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:04 AM on September 22, 2008

Also, I understand the draw of Mr. Passionate, I really do. But I don't really see why someone would waste time and emotional energy on a person who is essentially unreliable. I think you have to be, first and foremost, honest with yourself about why you want to pursue a romantic relationship with someone who will end the relationship for "reasons vague even to himself." I guess, "the sex is incredible" can be a reason, but good sex != "someone who will be a good sperm contributor for my future children".

I guess I'm imagining a situation where he will "do anything to get back together with you" includes agreements that he will not be willing to keep in the future.
posted by muddgirl at 11:04 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Go with the guy who never said he didn't want you.
posted by ewkpates at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2008 [35 favorites]

While it is no doubt flattering to discover that somebody who decided you were no longer worth dating has changed his mind, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Why replace the good thing you have now with something that has already proven not to work previously? And if you do decide to go back to the old guy, how many times are you going to be willing to keep going back to him after he dumps you again and then decides it was a mistake once you start dating someone else?
posted by The Gooch at 11:07 AM on September 22, 2008

Door #2
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:09 AM on September 22, 2008

Like others above I am tempted to pick a guy for you, but that is not the question (I think). If the question really is "What things should I keep in mind when deciding how to move forward?", the only two things I can think of are:

One guy dumped you once already. You don't know why (and neither did he at the time??)

You are 30 and want kids. Your clock is ticking.
posted by fritley at 11:09 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

ewkpates, that is extraordinarily sound advice delivered in a wonderfully lyrical way. Today, I adore you. :)

Nthing ewkpates; Ditching a solid guy for one who dumped you is a recipe for heartache.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:10 AM on September 22, 2008

I have a friend who was just in this situation last year and she chose to ignore all the flowers and promises of Guy 1 and stick with the solid, nice, reliable Guy 2. She is happy and doesn't regret it, and is still on a great path with Guy 2.

You've already seen how it plays out with Guy 1. Give Guy 2 and your great-sounding relationship a chance to build without someone interfering and playing games.

It doesn't sound like all 3 of you are into the idea of polyamory, but if you are, ignore the above advice and make Guy 2 your primary, with a side dish of Guy 1.
posted by rmless at 11:12 AM on September 22, 2008

Go with guy number two. The other guy sounds like a flake, frankly.
posted by orange swan at 11:13 AM on September 22, 2008

Man A: Passionate, creative, vague. Makes you feel unsure and anxious.
Man B: Mellow, happy, affectionate, committed. Makes you laugh, feel understood.

The choice really isn't between the men, but between what you want for yourself. If you want passion and vagueness in your future, choose Man A. If you want commitment and laughter, choose Man B.

I think this is the classic tale of "beware that people don't change" and "know what you want".

As an aside, you might find that Man B, although a great friend and very committed, won't wait for you to make a decision forever. He'll probably want the same qualities -- commitment and feeling understood -- in a woman that he offers to the relationship. Likewise, Man A will look for the same qualities - excitement and vagueness, which is what you are offering him right now.
posted by Houstonian at 11:16 AM on September 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

Well, I guess I was Bachelor #1 at one time. I broke things off with my girlfriend for a number of reasosn. We went our seperate ways, she started dating a new guy, and I was outwardly cool with that (inside I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that she could have gotten over me so quickly!).

Then I decided I made a mistake, and asked her to take me back. She chose Bachelor #2. We decided to be friends still. For a short while anyway. We've been married for 18 years now, and I'm glad she didn't seek advice from MetaFilter. Some of the advice above isn't looking so good for the former me.

I imagine that one or the other of the men will force a decision at some point. If you think on it, I'm sure you can choose the right one. This would be better decided sooner by you than later by one of them. Their choice may not match your choice.
posted by genefinder at 11:29 AM on September 22, 2008

If you drag your feet and lose both of them, which man will you still about in 5 years as the one who got away?
posted by amelioration at 11:32 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't mistake drama for passion. Forget about the ex.
posted by Nattie at 11:44 AM on September 22, 2008

follow-up from the OP "Thanks for all the answers. I just wanted to clarify that I am always monogamous in my relationships, and I am looking for guidance based on that. Thanks again, this is useful."
posted by jessamyn at 11:58 AM on September 22, 2008

jessamyn's usual advice would apply here; call one man "heads" and the other "tails" and flip a coin. Without looking, who do you hope it will be?
posted by desjardins at 12:00 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now that I know that the OP is looking for a monogamous life partnership, I'm going to say neither of these guys are the guy.

Guy 1 isn't the guy because he flaked out. Guy 2 isn't the guy because you aren't feeling it, OP.

End it with both of these guys and get out there and look for someone you feel it with.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:19 PM on September 22, 2008

It's a tough decision, because you're wishing you could know how you'll end up feeling about the new guy. You think there's a genuine possibility of happiness with the passionate guy, but that's unlikely. If you go back with him, you'll be second-guessing yourself right away, and with good reason.

You have to let the old boyfriend go. He broke up with you, and now he thinks he wants to be with you. Why? There's probably been no important change in him or in his life to account for his re-wanting you. You two had some good things, yet in other ways he wasn't satisfied. Now he misses the good things. Whatever he thought was missing -- he'll be reminded before too long, and he'll be gone. You had a strong connection? He's willing to "do anything" to win you back? Sounds like too much drama, not enough substance.

Your doubts about the new guy might stem from just not knowing for sure what a relationship with him will feel like -- or you might strongly suspect you need more heat. Give it a go. If it doesn't work out, you'll still have had the great experience of being with a guy who's totally into you.
posted by wryly at 1:09 PM on September 22, 2008

Go with the guy who never said he didn't want you.

Nthing ewkpates.
posted by thejanna at 1:20 PM on September 22, 2008

I asked a similar question about two women a while back, and I found that many answers told me to pick one or the other based on how I'd described them, which was incomplete at best*. The best advice came in verse:

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind,
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.

No - not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you're hoping

- Piet Hein.

And it was true. At the time, it felt like a cop out, but as I hung out with both these women a little more it became clearer that I'd be wanting the penny to land on one side much more than the other. So just wait on it a little, I'd say, see them both and be upfront about where you're at, and I think you'll realise what you want.

*That being said, go with the second guy.
posted by twirlypen at 4:20 PM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

you may want to ask yourself, what is it about guy #2 that still makes you want to consider guy #1? what are you not getting here, that you are getting there?
posted by seawallrunner at 8:11 PM on September 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Definitely ask yourself seawallrunner's question. It's clear from the pile on that from the way you've written your question, #2 seems like the obvious choice/#1 seems not at good.

Yet you still are asking yourself the question - so is it just the passion that makes 1 seem so great? Do you simply not want to let go of a good thing you once had? Maybe it just feels so good to have two guys want you that you don't want to have to close off one option? Is there something about 2 that doesn't feel so right after all?

That's all just speculation. It'd probably be a good idea to try to figure out if there's anything you haven't told us that is important to you, and that you need to consider.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:23 PM on September 22, 2008

You're thinking about lifelong commitments and having kids. Essentially, this means that in addition to looking for a romantic and intimate partner, you're also looking for a business partner.

Imagine yourself running a small shop or cafe wtih each of your guys. Which one makes work a joy? Does one of them make you hate your job? How do their skills and yours compliment each other? If the business failed for reasons beyond any of your control, how would each guy handle it?
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:16 AM on September 23, 2008

Does #1 know about and endorse the baby plan? Because everything you mentioned about #2 seems like all he's waiting for is you to give the plan the ok. Hmm, you didn't say he was boring though? So is his only crime that he's not dangerous/exciting/unreliable...? Don't get me wrong, I am a (big) fan of all that stuff ...but the thought of doing it hard as a single mum is really not a part of their appeal.
(Based on my observances I think it's instinctive, we search for the most dominant genetic input we can find but then once we have the child and caring for it becomes the priority, it doesn't seem common for that role to still be based upon that same person.)

I vote #2. Because he's a grown-up and he's ready for this. (And obviously not handling the situation like a jerk. You seem like you deserve to be raising babies with a guy like that.) If he would raise the babies then why not just cut out the middle man, and let them be his babies? :)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:10 PM on September 23, 2008

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