I'm taken but falling for someone else
January 17, 2009 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm falling for a friend who is much more compatible with me than my SO of five years.

I’m a 36-year-old woman in a committed live-in relationship with a 27-year-old man. I love my SO, but there are some basic incompatibilities that show up all the more starkly in comparison with this particular guy-friend of mine who is remarkably similar to me in background, age, values, lifestyle, and outlook on the world. I’ve had an intensifying crush on him for nearly six months now (since we met) and I am pretty sure the feeling is mutual. My friend is available. He's very respectful of the fact that I'm taken, but he often compliments the way I look and he makes an effort to see me even though we no longer work together.

Oftentimes I’ll try to engage my SO in conversation about ideas or things that interest me, only to be met with a glazed “I dunno.” On the too-rare occasions I get to hang out with my friend, we never tire of talking about everything from our past relationships to politics to music or whatever else catches our fancy. Our compatibility, down to the little quirks, often astonishes me. I don’t often find that.

I feel taken for granted by my SO, whereas I feel that my friend is one of the most supportive, kind, and enthusiastic people in my life. My SO does not always “get” me. He rarely picks up after himself. He procrastinates, and when I remind him to do things or express my frustration, he calls it “nagging.” He has unpaid debt and ignores bill collectors. He smokes. He sleeps in and is content to make enough money to just get by while he pursues a dream career in which he may or may not succeed.

My friend appreciates me and the things I do and he lets me know. That’s really important to me and in my personal experience, rare. He’s dynamic, articulate, and involved in the community, and he likes to do a variety of fun things. He also has a dark, self-deprecating sense of humor that’s really similar to mine and he seems to know himself pretty well . He’s not arrogant. If anything, he’s unaware of what a wonderful person he is. He’s a hard worker with a great job.

My SO is disengaged from most activities, except for his one big passion. He’s introspective but only up to a point.
I think about my friend all the time even though I don’t see him all that often anymore (we used to work together). We’ve kept in touch and I do see him occasionally. I often dream about him at night.

I’m experienced enough in relationships to know that crushes on other people are normal and should just be tolerated/ignored/enjoyed until they fade away. I’m not one to jump the gun and relationship-hop at the first sign of trouble, not anymore at least. I’ve worked hard NOT to be that person. I’ve never cheated on a partner and I pride myself on that.

But it’s been six months and my feelings for the other person have intensified to the point where I almost called my SO by my friend’s name at a VERY inopportune time (yes, it’s what you’re imagining – luckily I stopped myself).

I’m starting to wonder if I’ll eventually regret not leaving my SO and telling my friend how I feel. I am sure, based on body language and things he’s said, that if I were single and gave him the green light he’d want to get together with me. I don’t think he realizes how I feel because I’ve tried so hard to just keep it platonic and have good boundaries, all the while just hoping my feelings would follow suit. I’ve been living a lie and “acting as if” just isn’t working.

I feel obligated to stay in my current relationship for several reasons, and aside from that, I do love my partner. I made a commitment to him. We have shared a house, pets, and a life together for five years and consider ourselves common-law married. I can’t just waltz off into the sunset with my friend and abandon my SO without some major guilt and grief. My SO hasn’t done anything malicious. He may be lazy and irresponsible around the house, but he’s also sweet, loving, and affectionate to me and has no idea I’m having feelings for someone else. Plus, I have nowhere else to go and a lot of stuff to move. I’m also worried that he can’t make it without me. He’s had some issues with addiction in the past and I’m afraid he might relapse if I leave, and then the years I supported his recovery will all be a waste.

I don’t want to cut off contact with my friend. That would make me resent my SO. I don’t want to fail in my current relationship like I’ve failed in others (meaning they have all ended). I have thought the grass on someone else’s lawn was greener before, and I was wrong. I could be wrong this time too. How can I trust myself that I’d be making the right decision? I’m at my wits’ end and am having trouble concentrating on anything but this. I can’t get my friend out of my mind and everything in my being is screaming, “tell him!” I could really use some perspective, MeFites.

You can reach me at crushonmyfriend@gmail.com.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Significant relationships are significantly about commitment. You "consider yourselves" married, meaning you consider yourself committed to your boyfriend.

The question you have to ask yourself is, "Am I committed or not?"

If the answer is "Yes," then you stay where you are and find a way to deal with it. I'll let others give advice on how that works, but that's the correct answer.

If the answer is "No," well, that raises other questions, the first of which is "Why not?" followed closely by "Am I okay with that?" Do you want to be the kind of person who isn't committed enough to stick it out when the going gets tough? And from there, you have to ask yourself whether given the fact that you aren't committed in this relationship, what makes you think you'll be committed in that one? Every relationship has its ups and downs, and every relationship has times where you will feel distant from your SO. That is not an automatic signal that you need to leave, it's a signal that you're human and that's life. If you're willing to walk away from this, you're setting yourself up to walk away from this "friend" when that gets stale.

It isn't a question about whether or not this "friend" is a "better fit" or not. Staying with someone as long as you want to or until you find someone better is not called "commitment" it's called "sleeping around." If you really are committed to your boyfriend, you know what you need to do. If you aren't, not only do you have to come to terms with that, but you have a duty to let your "friend" know that.
posted by valkyryn at 10:05 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry, but what is the question? Should you leave and how and when? Or how can you stop thinking about your friend? All of the above?
posted by barnone at 10:05 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have thought the grass on someone else’s lawn was greener before, and I was wrong. I could be wrong this time too. How can I trust myself that I’d be making the right decision?

You can't know that. Also, what is the "right decision"? It sounds like, to you, a relationship is a failure unless it ends in a lifelong commitment. Maybe try enjoying it for what it is, while it is happening. If you dump your SO for this new guy, it may end horribly, but it may be great while it lasts.

Plus, I have nowhere else to go and a lot of stuff to move. I’m also worried that he can’t make it without me. He’s had some issues with addiction in the past and I’m afraid he might relapse if I leave, and then the years I supported his recovery will all be a waste.

These sound like awful reasons to stay in a relationship. You need to examine your current relationship independently of this new guy. Does it bring you more joy than grief? Does your current partner work with you on improving the problems you both have in the relationship? If the answer to those questions is no, I see no reason to stay with the person.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:09 AM on January 17, 2009

In my opinion, you've made this situation far more complicated than it actually is. Listen, either you want to stay in a relationship with your partner or you don't. The friend you have a crush on is just a red herring in your question. It's completely separate from the larger and more important question that only you can answer -- do you want to continue with this man that you have made, as you put it, a commitment to? It may be tempting to construct a narrative about how this other person swept you off your feet, but the fact of the matter is that, in my experience, if everything is hunky dory in your own relationship you don't invest a serious amount of emotional time thinking about another person.

You spend the first half of your question listing the ways that you and your SO are incompatible. The comparison to your "friend," again, isn't relevant to the conversation at this point. It's very easy to find all the ways that this person you haven't lived with for 5 years is better for you in certain areas than the one you've got right now. The real question is: are these dealbreakers for me? Do I love this person enough to work out these issues, open a line of communication, and compromise on some things that just won't change about my partner? Let me assure you that if you do choose to begin a relationship with your wonderfully compatible friend, you will still find issues that you are incompatible with him about. It's easy to ignore someone's faults if you haven't had repeated exposure to them over and over again in a serious, long term relationship.

In a nutshell, my advice to you is to take the potential for this friendship to turn into a relationship completely off the table for now -- if only out of respect for the five-year relationship it's interfering in. Take a good look at the relationship you have with your significant other on its own merits. You look as if you're trying to use this person that you might have relationship potential with as an excuse to believe that you're incompatible with your partner in the long term. If you're going to make it in any relationship, you have to accept that you will meet people from time to time that you may have had a great relationship with. If you're in something for the long haul, then you choose to acknowledge those feeling/that potential and let it pass by. You have something more important in your life with another person. If you decide you're committed to your current relationship, then that's it. You must make it completely clear to yourself and your friend that you won't be available for anything more. If you're not committed, you need to be fair to your partner -- despite the extenuating circumstances -- and break it off.

Sorry for the long answer! By the way, this:

I don’t want to cut off contact with my friend. That would make me resent my SO.

Is ridiculous. If you choose to remain committed to your partner, it's completely unfair to resent him for YOUR decision not to continue seeing someone that you can't control yourself around. If you stay with your partner, you need to throw this out the window.
posted by theantikitty at 10:16 AM on January 17, 2009 [23 favorites]

In 5 years time, will you look back on now and think "I wish I'd dumped Bob and gone out with Jim"? or will you think "Bob's ability to procrastinate, not communicate with me and debt are such endearing qualities"?

He’s had some issues with addiction in the past and I’m afraid he might relapse if I leave, and then the years I supported his recovery will all be a waste.

His addiction is his affair. He could turn back to it tomorrow, and there'd be nothing you could do about it.

My opinion: Quit being this guy's surrogate mom, and try things on with your new guy. You regret the things you don't do much more than the things you do do. But absolutely do not stay with your current SO because you're scared that he'll start drinking (or whatever) again. That way resentment lies.
posted by Solomon at 10:16 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

It seems to me that above anything else, you need to determine whether or not your current SO is someone you want to stay with. Forget about your crush - are you and your SO compatible? Are you happy with him? All things being equal, can you see yourself staying happy with him?

Staying with someone because you're afraid of failing again is not a good-enough reason. It's not fair to him and not fair to you. I'd say doing pretty much anything out of fear is not a good idea. I mean, all relationships end, except the one that doesn't.

I'd say that first comes figuring out your current relationship. If you love him and think he truly is the one for you, then you know what you need to do about your crush. If you think this is the end of the road, then end that properly first before starting to explore a relationship with someone else. Each relationship should stand on its own and not be conflated.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:21 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sounds like a case of the grass is always greener.

You know, when you're living with someone, and doing it half ass (you know, not being married) it's easy to get distracted by that occasional free spirit who passes through who happens to like the smell of new tires, or spending his weekends at shamanic retreats chasing his spirit animal... or whatever turns you own.

But the danger is that you may not see all the other little ways that this person is incompatible with you.

Sure you both like Gordon Lightfoot, and freebasing... but does the guy pay his bills on time? Could you live with him? Is he going to do for you all the countless little things that your SO does for you that you don't even recognize, that you take for granted.

Not saying the new guy isn't your soul mate, but before you go and commit to an irreversible course, you should really think it through.
posted by wfrgms at 10:23 AM on January 17, 2009 [8 favorites]

I think you are seeing this as one decision: Should you leave person #1 for person #2. But it sounds like you have two decisions to make, and I'd recommend making them separately.

Your first decision is, should you stay with your partner?

Your second decision is, should you pursue a relationship with the other person?

Frankly, it sounds like the decision is already made, though, and that you are just dragging your feet in telling the two people. Since you are spending time with the new person, and have a long list of reasons why he's a better match for you than your "significant" other, to the point that you are dreaming about him and calling out his name while having sex with your partner, haven't you already left, emotionally?

So, that brings a third decision to the table: Are you ready for a committed relationship?

By your words, you are common-law married and feel very committed. But, can you say that you are acting like a person in a loving, committed relationship? For better or worse? Forsaking all others? Until death? Maybe that's just not your thing.
posted by Houstonian at 10:24 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Here's a question: aside from the relationship/crush issues, do you have any other issues in the last months? I've found that I get in these crazy crush situations, its because there's something else I don't want to think about. I'd look there first.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:32 AM on January 17, 2009 [6 favorites]

I feel that live should be lived without regrets (you can rue and lament decisions, but no regrets).

Your current SO's addiction is not your problem. From your post, it sounds like your current SO doesn't really fit the bill, and that you are settling because you are afraid to look for something better.

Like others have said, think it through. Then I tell the friend in question how you feel, and ask him how he feels. If he feels the same, go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

My experience: I was in a relationship with a stable, loving, very nice, responsible, predictable, slightly boring, unwilling to try new things, etc. sort of guy. He did nothing malicious, but it just wasn't doing it for me. I dumped him and all of the security that went with it. Best decision I ever made, because now I have what does it for me and makes me happy.

Email me if you have any questions, and good luck. I think you know what you should do.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:42 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

These seems like two independent questions that aren't necessarily interrelated. One is, "Should I end a long-term relationship because of same basic incompatibilities that I don't see us ever getting past?", while the other is, "I am romantically interested in a platonic friend of mine, should I pursue a relationship with him?"

While obviously the first question should be settled before you even start thinking about the second, having a crush on someone else isn't an "out" or the excuse you should be using to end your current relationship. However, you've listed enough problems in your current relationship to where it seems reasonable to give some serious thought to whether or not it is worth continuing (not that a breakup is inevitable, just that enough issues are there to where you shouldn't keep going on auto-pilot just out of habit).

As a side-note, threads like this are often filled with comments (and it looks like it's already started here) about how long-term relationships are hard work, not just fun and games, which I can respect to a degree. On the other hand, every relationship isn't a precious flower that needs to continue to be cultivated at all costs. There is no reason to stay in a relationship that is making you unhappy (if that is indeed the case) just to prove you take relationships seriously or because you've already been together for a long time.

On the other hand, you should probably prepare yourself for the very real possibility that if you break up with your current SO the relationship with the new guy very likely won't work out either, just based on the statistical reality that most relationships don't end up in lifelong commitment. Which is a possibility you may very well already realize, and it's not a reason to stay in an unhappy relationship anyway, but it sounded to me like you were idealizing the new guy a little bit in your question, so I just wanted to bring this down to Earth.
posted by The Gooch at 10:47 AM on January 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have no idea why your SO is disengaged and taking you for granted and all that, but what if it were because he's busy thinking about someone else? What if he thought "I feel really judged and discouraged by my SO about my career choices and finances, but my friend Joan is so supportive of my dreams and she totally gets my focus on this one passion instead of a bunch of different interests--she's so great, I can't stop thinking about her"? What if he had a friend the way you do, someone he daydreamed about and longed to be with, but at the same time he felt obligated to stay with you because he knows how bad you'd feel about another "failed" relationship and also because it's a pain in the ass to disentangle the parts of a shared life and house? What would you want him to do?
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:49 AM on January 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

Sounds like your current relationship is broken. I think you owe it to your SO to talk about why you are unhappy before you break it off, given the time you have spent together and the other indicia of commitment you describe. You may, in fact, find that both of you want to wind up the relationship, which makes your dilemma moot.

Adultery, though, is the way of the coward. If you want to try your lot with your friend, do it after you end your current relationship. It is a fundamental act of respect he likely deserves (at minimum), and karma is a bitch.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:05 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

How do you even know your friend is interested? Even if if is is slightly interested, unless he is REALLY into you, the idea of you dumping a long term partner for him is probably horrifying. It's a lot of drama, guilt and pressure and I would achieve lightspeed to get the fuck away from a situation like that.
posted by w0mbat at 11:21 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here's a question: aside from the relationship/crush issues, do you have any other issues in the last months? I've found that I get in these crazy crush situations, its because there's something else I don't want to think about. I'd look there first.

I think it's the fact that she's incompatible with her current SO.
posted by jayder at 11:28 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm usually an advocate for staying with your long-term partner, but it sounds as though you are very unhappy with him. You've been with him for five years, and his true colors have come out --- he has one passion, doesn't communicate well with you, doesn't share your same interests or have a similar sense of humor, and your experience with him is rather "blah." Yes, you love him --- but I would propose that we could claim to "love" just about anyone with whom we have shared five years of domestic intimacy, as long as they are not abusive assholes --- so don't put too much stock in your love for him.

It sounds as though your relationship with your SO has run its course, and your interest in your friend is they way you're finding that out.
posted by jayder at 11:31 AM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

I don’t want to fail in my current relationship like I’ve failed in others (meaning they have all ended).

I don't know what you should do, I just wanted to say that a relationship ending does not mean that it failed. I think people add an awful lot of unnecessary angst to the field of relationships by believing that. It also encourages you to live in a constant state of anxiety, angled towards the future -- "is it going to last? Is it going to last?" -- instead of enjoying the present. Why do this? So that on your deathbed you can say "I won! It worked!" and then die?

The implications of this for your dilemma:

1. On the one hand, don't stick with your current SO solely out of the belief that being with him for the rest of your life would be some kind of achievement in itself, whereas leaving him would mean the relationship had been a "failure" or your years together a "waste".

2. On the other hand, don't pursue a relationship with the new guy if you're motivated by a belief that finally you've found the relationship that will never end.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:34 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

There will always be someone better. When do you quit looking?

Relationships almost always end; even 'committed' ones. How do you think people move from one to the next? You're at the point you have to think about that.

If the prime criteria for any relationship "Mutually satisfying and growth producing' is not met by your current relationship, end it.

"Ending" means the relationship changes into either

1) a mutually satisfying and growth producing one (i.e., fix it) or
2) a former relationship. (i.e., terminate it)

It's really that simple. Move on to a better set of problems.

Commitment is a chimera. In our society, it is almost always conditional. Don't get hung up on it. Presumably, mate committed to being a good mate and has failed his commitment. Why are you trapped in yours? Are you sure he has been faithful? (You're probably wrong... even if he has only 'lusted in his heart', to quote Jimmy Carter.)

If you are brave enough to consider an alternative relationship style, that is a possibility. If you are unethical enough to live a lie, adultery is a possibility. If you believe that all you get to choose is conventional solutions, and can neither lie nor create a better paradigm, you may be stuck with unhappiness as your sad lot. Fortuantely, you'll be in abundant company. That's where the phrase 'lives of quiet desparation' came from.

Good luck. I fully agree with Solomon, you regret things you didn't do more than things you did. Resentment comes up like "Whack a mole".... once you do something that requires suppressing resentment, it'll just appear disguised as something else down the road when you least expect it.
posted by FauxScot at 11:43 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Your friend isn't perfect. Just a heads-up.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:46 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think your SO deserves to know how you feel - not about the other guy, but about him. I'm rather shocked that you would bail on a 5 year relationship because he doesn't pick up his socks and he sleeps late. Surely these are not new behaviors. If you and your SO were so incompatible, you would never have gotten together. You've both gotten complacent, and it's probable that he doesn't even see the impact. If you really love this guy, I think you should go to couples counseling and try to work on your issues. Pursuing this new guy is really, really cowardly and disrespectful to someone who's been committed to you for all this time.
posted by desjardins at 12:15 PM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

You really like having this guy around because you know he'll never leave you and you get off on being the responsible one, the successful adult in the relationship, and after all YOU'RE the one responsible for his sobriety (hint, he is the one who made the decision to get sober, not you).

...but you don't really like him. If you were really committed to one another you'd be really married, not kinda married but still TECHNICALLY only my boyfriend but I have a lot of stuff but...

Do him a favor and tell him that you're thinking about leaving because he doesn't pick up his socks and this whole shit about his dream is bull and he needs to pay his bills, get a real job, and wake up at 6am on the weekend. See what happens.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:24 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

On the too-rare occasions I get to hang out with my friend, we never tire of talking about everything from our past relationships to politics to music or whatever else catches our fancy.

Everyone seems way more interesting when you're first meet them. I'll bet you and your SO talked plenty when you were getting to know each other.

Our compatibility, down to the little quirks, often astonishes me. I don’t often find that.

Beware confirmation bias.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:57 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

So the fantasy relationship youve made in your head with this other guy who may or may not be interested in you is better than your real relationship? You dont say! You have no idea what it is being with this other guy until you do. You might find that a good friendship doesnt mean that must morph into a good relationship.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:15 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Staying in a relationship because you have a lot to move, nowhere to go (do you not work and have money and the ability to rent an apartment? are you financially dependent upon your SO?) and that 1) he'll relapse and 2) the work you did to support him will be wasted are all horrible non-reason excuses to not deal with your relationship.

That aside, as others have posted, of course the new guy in your life is going to go out of his way to compliment you, be happy to see you, and you haven't run out of things to talk about because, well, you haven't been together for five years. Of course it all seems wonderful, fresh and exciting, but nothing that you've written here screams OMG I FOUND MY SOUL MATE HELP ME.

What this does scream is, HELP OUR RELATIONSHIP WENT BORING BECAUSE NO ONE TOLD US THERE WAS ANY WORK INVOLVED ONCE WE SHACKED UP. Man, this stuff is HARD. Being in a relationship is HARD. It never stops being hard and it never stops needing work. The difference is what joy and reward you get out of the work. Mr. M and I have been around the block a few times, we wanted things to be different this time, and this means you make a fucking effort to tell your SO that they look nice or that you love them or bring them flowers for a reason or no reason or buy him a pair of gloves because he lost his and the color reminded you of his eyes. We are both tremendously busy people with both individual pursuits and shared pursuits so although it's been five years, I can be in a car for 10 hours with this guy and we never run out of things to talk about. I don't know that we do anything specifically to foster that one, though, besides the fact that we feed ourselves intellectually on an individual level.

But the relationship stuff, once you move in together, no one ever says, "And you know that now that you're married or shacked up and as good as married, there's still day to day work to keep this thing going, right?" And you will fight, but it's how you fight and what you fight about, does it move the relationship forward or are you always fighting about the same goddamn thing (everyone thinks ooh, fight = bad, but that's just not true).

It's easy to be with the new guy because you're a movie star with the new guy. So you have to put him aside, and look at your relationship with your SO and say, what's MY part here? When was the last time I told him I loved him? When was the last time we had a date night? When was the last time I got dressed up in that green dress he thinks sets off my hair just so we could go get pizza?

You gotta work at it.

And maybe your SO isn't your SO. That may well be the case. But you have to stop and look at him and look at where you are and who you are together. Not look at you and someone else in the fictional thing you don't really have and don't know what it will be like.

I'm not going to lecture you on commitment because that's not helpful and just imperious.
posted by micawber at 1:46 PM on January 17, 2009 [10 favorites]

"I am sure, based on body language and things he’s said, that if I were single and gave him the green light he’d want to get together with me."

Maybe. On the other hand, the world is full of people who are happy to have a flirty relationship with someone who isn't available; once he/she becomes available, they run a mile (you don't say your relationship with your friend is flirty, but reading between the lines, I think it is). My guess is he'd get together for a night of passion, but you could find yourself badly let down thereafter.

On the other hand... your current SO seems to be in a different place from you. You don't mention this, but do you want children? He could be "pursuing his dream" for the next ten years, easily. And why shouldn't he? I think you have a right to consider your own future, no matter what your current commitment. Also, your reasons for sticking with current BF aren't all of them very convincing (some are). Why don't you just talk to this friend frankly about just what he might be able to offer you?

On balance, in your situation, I'd fuck him.
posted by londongeezer at 3:23 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why did you choose to ask a bunch of internet strangers what they think you should do? These people have zero insight into your real relationship with your SO and even less insight into your hypothetical relationship with your "friend." Are you looking for advice so that you don't have to make this decision? So that you don't have to own the responsibility for it?

Just remember that you are responsible for it. This is your decision. Make this decision based on what's important to you. Be the kind of person you want to be. It's our choices that make us who we are; you're about to make a big one, and it'll change who you are. None of us can take that responsibility away from you.

There's a lot of advice in this thread. There's a lot of general advice that I agree with, and some stuff that I believe to be obnoxious, FauxScot's comment particularly so (commitment doesn't exist, everyone cheats, so don't feel guilty!--except that it does, they don't, and you will). But what I think and what I would do is irrelevant. It's up to you.
posted by smorange at 4:54 PM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

having been in this situation exactly - SO (5 years) and PC (6 months)- this seems to be a case of the grass is always greener.

nthing everyone saying that your platonic crush (PC) is not perfect. he only seems perfect now because you have pit him against your SO. you're taking your SO for granted, and your overlooking all the good things he does or, at the least, downplaying them. you haven't listed them, and it's because you're in a PC daze, and you don't remember them. ymmv, but i'd venture to say you're gonna miss it when it's gone.

if i can stop one person from making the mistake i did, i'll always try. but i know that the case is you feel really strongly about this (and, in my opinion, wrongfully so). you have already made the decision to leave but right now you're looking for affirmation.

you have only known PC for 6 months, but NOT in the right context. you cannot learn people by making a play-by-play comparison. i.e. PC holds the door; SO walks in ahead of me. PC compliments me on my hair; SO doesn't notice me. you are going to be surprised by how much you don't know about him, particularly how he is in a long term relationship. also, he knows relationship you, which is unavailable, moments at a time, and pleasant because you're saving all your emotional happiness for interactions with him, meanwhile sabotaging your relationship with SO.

please, please, please do not overlook what you have. and quit the emotional affair. you are just really being unfair to yourself. you are not giving yourself the opportunity to make a clear decision.

tell PC to back the fuck off. then deal with your SO. but really deal with it sans ultimatums (if he doesn't get his act together, it means x, and i will leave).

i really hope this works out whatever you decide to do. i know my
posted by alice ayres at 4:56 PM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

sorry - last sentence.

i know my experience clouds this, but this is a tough one. think hard and clearly. mefi mail me if you want to be scared out of doing it (j/k).
posted by alice ayres at 5:12 PM on January 17, 2009

It sounds like you face a tough choice: you either have a lot of work to do to improve your current relationship, or you can leave it and experience guilt and grief. Instead of picking either of these unpleasant options, you're having escapist fantasies instead. You know the fantasies aren't real, but you don't know what to do. Personally, I vote for sondrialiac's approach ("do him a favor and...") with the caveat "decide if it's worth it first."

It sounds like you don't respect your current partner and that you're kind of resigned to not respecting him. It's possible you could come to respect him by telling him you don't like his procrastinatory, debt-acquiring, non-ambitious ways. This would mean having a number of difficult conversations that get increasingly serious (you: "shared ambition is really something I want in a relationship." Him: "I honestly don't see careerism as morally superior to a happy and relaxed life"). He might decide to change some behaviors. Or you might come to see his perspective and respect him fully in spite of your differences.

But all of that's a lot of work, work that might go nowhere, work you don't necessarily have to do. I'd probably feel like I owed it to him, but people do choose not to go through that, for a variety of understandable reasons. And even if you do try it, you should probably leave at whatever point you lose hope that it could become a true and satisfying partnership.

Interestingly, you seem to lack that hope now and actually use it as a reason for not leaving. ("I’m also worried that he can’t make it without me.") Whether or not it's true, accepting this and actually using it as a reason to stay keeps you with him, not in spite of, but precisely because you don't see him as an equal. (No wonder you have escapist fantasies! What a burden!)

Don't stay because leaving will be difficult, or because you're afraid of what he might do to his own life if you leave, or because you already put so much effort in and want to get "your money's worth" (see: the sunk cost fallacy). You should probably focus on whether the effort you'll have to put in moving forward will be worth the partnership you'll experience going forward.

If you do leave, you might really get better raw material for a true and equal partnership with this friend, or with the person you imagine him to be. But in any relationship it will eventually become important to do maintenance and confront seeds of discontent -- rather than putting up with them or even becoming his crutch in certain ways, while allowing your disrespect to grow -- to avoid getting in this situation again. To be a bit cheesy: I'd make a decision that your time of supporting people through rehab and laziness is over and that now is the time when you begin to get the relationship you want, whether by asking for changes in your current relationship or by leaving it to find a better one.
posted by salvia at 5:13 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think it's the fact that she's incompatible with her current SO.

Yes. If the current boyfriend/husband was meeting all her needs, there would be no interest to put towards someone else.

I agree with the above - there are two separate questions. Keep them separate and deal with them one at a time. If you leave A for B and B isn't into it, it's going to be a rough time.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:40 PM on January 17, 2009

Here's my impression of this post:

"My boyfriend right now...he's ok, I guess. There's some issues, but he's nice to me, I made the commitment..." Basically, if New Cow (hah) had not come around, you'd be feeling pretty neutral about things. "Eh, this is fine, I can deal with it."

But New Cow came along, and even beyond New Cow's sparkly newness and compatibility, the situation has made you realize that maybe you aren't quite up to spending the rest of your life with Old Just Okay Cow. Or at least, maybe Just Okay and Obligation and I Said I'd Commit And So I Shall may not be able to do it for you in the end.

I think you do need to think about whether or not you are okay with the status quo of Old Cow, regardless of New Cow...but it sounds like you may need to leave Old Cow in the end.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 PM on January 17, 2009

I was in a similar situation and went with the new guy. Couldn't be happier.

I was with "Bob" for 2 years and living with him when I met "Jim". Jim became friends with both of us and made it clear that, as far as he was concerned, I was the One. Like you, I was much more compatible with Jim. Unlike you, I could find little fault with Bob. Bob was terrific, a lovely man, really....but not quite as intellectually stimulating as Jim, with whom I could have endless conversation. Jim and I shared a similar outlook, a similar sense of humor, and similar interests. I was terrified I might give up Bob for Jim and tire of Jim or lose interest in Jim and be alone.

In the end, I decided that what Jim had to offer me I could no longer do without in my relationship with Bob. I wanted the endless conversation....if not with Jim then someone else, and I was not getting it from Bob. So my friendship with Jim put in sharp relief all the things that were missing in my relationship with Bob. As a result, there was no going back...I wanted those things.

Eventually, I broke up with Bob and began dating Jim. Been with Jim for three years and I am crazy in love and still enjoying the hell out of our endless conversation and shared humor. Even Bob (and his new love) now enjoys our company as a couple. Your mileage may very well vary.

Tons of people in relationships met while one of both were in other relationships. Like others have already posted, focus on your current relationship. If it doesn't inspire you then, regardless of newguy's pull in your life, move on. Seek not what you can live with, but what you cannot live without. Good luck, m'dear.
posted by Jezebella at 10:13 AM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Throwing it out there - you've already seen that there is someone more compatible with you than your current partner (even if you and your friend don't wind up dating).

Ergo, there is probably someone out there more suited to your current SO than you.

It sounds like your current relationship isn't meeting your needs & has stagnated. Relationships are about growth; don't give into the inertia of a long-term relationship. It sounds like you will either continue to be somewhat miserable (ok, dissatisfied) or leave him eventually in the future.

I'd say move on and find someone that makes you happy (not necessarily your friend). The signs are already there. In blazing Hollywood lights.
posted by HolyWood at 11:39 AM on January 18, 2009

In my experience, despite being in a satisfying marriage, it is not uncommon to meet someone who is attractive, dynamic, funny, and all-around appealing --- someone that I can imagine would potentially be a good long-term mate. Being happy does not preclude noticing other people with whom one might be compatible.

The difference between my situation and anonymous' is that, my response is, "Y is really attractive and appealing ... in another life, if I weren't so happy with X, I could imagine Y and me being together." And then I move on.

But anonymous' attraction to the friend is inducing real longing, and underscoring the mediocrity of her relationship with her SO. If she were happy and fulfilled with her SO, she would just note the friend's attractiveness, accept that it wasn't meant to be, and move on. But with her SO being such a dud, she cannot stop thinking about how much better the friend would be. That's a sign that the SO isn't the right one for her, and that she should leave.
posted by jayder at 11:57 AM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Imagine everything your SO gives you as utterly and totally gone and irretrievable. Imagine him very wounded and angry about how he was treated (he's human). Because he might very well refuse to have anything to do with you ever again. The likelihood that you will completely destroy all that you have is very, very likely.

We can't tell you what is right but advise you what will happen.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:38 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, speaking from experience...never go *from* one relationship *to* another. It never works.

Take the friend out of the equation for the nonce. Then think about your current relationship. Is this someone you want to see over the breakfast table for the rest of your life? If you're already playing Mom to his GenX slacker, do you think that's going to change? Or do you think he's likely to trade you in on a younger model when/if he gets his act together?

I know that guys never get this comment, and keep in mind that I say this as someone who is older than my husband...but damn, 10 years is much bigger age difference than you might think. I mean, many cultural milestones are just completely different reference points, and unless there is a strong basis for other common interests, just the different stages of reality one finds oneself in will not be a shared experience.

That said; no relationship is without struggle and no relationship survives without work.

But, and this is an important but, there is no getting back the time and work you put into a relationship. Once it's over, that time is gone.

You need to define for yourself if the work is worth it. If not, cut your losses and move on. His problems are his own cross to bear, not yours.

Define you, define what matters to you, define what you want in a partner. If the current SO isn't capable of delivering that...then it's time to move on.

Best of luck to you!
posted by dejah420 at 11:20 AM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been reading AskMeFi for years without registering but I created an account just to reply to this question.

I suggest you read "Too Good to Leave Too Bad to Stay" or "When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships" by Mira Kirshenbaum. I cannot recommend her books more highly. I think she has real insight into what people need in committed relationships, and after reading one of these books it should be clear to you if you need to break it off with your SO or really commit to him.
posted by ssqq at 11:49 AM on January 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Just think about how it felt when you and your SO first started to hit it off way back when...chances are there were similar sparks, or at least some of things you love so much about your friend that made you commit to the SO. What this goes to show is that people in relationships never stay the same person we fell in love with for whatever reasons. They change in accordance with the relationship, in relation to you, in relation to their life. At the same time, us women perpetually find ourselves in deeply unfulfilling relationships because of deep-seated lack of confidence that tells us we probably can't do any better. So, I have no conclusions for you, just the same thoughts I have gone over in my own head time and time again in similar circumstances.
posted by sadgreeneyes at 6:36 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

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