Should I reunite with my ex-boyfriend?
March 25, 2010 6:23 PM   Subscribe

(relationship filter] Please help me choose between true love and great sex. Of course, I don’t really mean that. But I do need help making a decision and whatever I decide to do, someone’s heart is going to be broken.

I am paralyzed by fear about hurting anyone so that is why I need your advice. (I am so sorry that is long, but I have been trying to write this Ask Metafilter question for months).

I am a woman in my mid-twenties. For several years, I have been an on-again off-again relationship with a man, also in his mid-twenties. We met during college and had a very close friendship. Then we became boyfriend and girlfriend. About two years later, I moved to his hometown and we got a house together. Let’s call him K.

To give you an idea of our relationship, I think we were the “perfect” couple. We shared a unique philosophy, we shared the same spiritual beliefs, we had the same offbeat sense of humor... We were the kind of couple that collaborated on music-making; we made large-scale art installations together; we volunteered in foreign countries together; and we read books from the public library together. We were the kind of couple that strangers exclaimed at “You two are so cute!” We were the kite-flying, mixtape-making, screen-printing, bird-watching, cake-baking kind of couple. K made me laugh outloud every day and when I hugged him, I felt more love than I ever thought possible. When we talked about the future, we both wanted the same things: to save and travel around the world together, to get married and have a child together in the next 10 years, to do Peace Corps together, to work for social justice, and so on. When we would kiss beneath our favorite tree, I would feel like there couldn’t possibly be a love more pure and true than ours. You know what I’m talking about, MeFites?

There were, however, two serious problems that led to us breaking up.

1. First, he struggled with jealousy. He repeatedly interrogated me for hours about the boyfriends I had before him, going back to high school. These kinds of sessions would leave me crying and would leave him dissatisfied with my responses. Questions would range from “When did you lose your virginity?” to “How many times did you sleep with your last boyfriend?” and on and on. If I even spoke to another guy, K would become alternately sullen or emotional. When we were living together, I felt extremely isolated. K insisted that we leave social events early if I talked to other guys (I would routinely be home in bed by 11 pm on a Saturday night at age 23) and he insisted that I was cheating on him. On a trip with my best friend, I became buddies with a younger guy who reminded me of my little brother. When I told K about the nice conversations I had with him, K became upset and thought I had hooked up with the kid. This behavior left me feeling hysterical and like I had no options available for making friends. He criticized my female friends too – “her art sucks”, “she is crazy”, “she seems lame” were comments he made about my female friends. During the year we lived together, I spent New Year’s Eve alone with him, I spent my birthday alone with him, and I spent every weekend alone with him. I felt like I had no one else in my life except him. So towards the end of the year, when I had the opportunity to visit friends in another town, I went. After just a day or two there, I began to feel like myself again. I stayed up late, I got excited about making my own art, I talked to guys and other women without worrying. My friends said “Everyone here thinks you rule!” and they casually suggested that I move there and live with them. After a few more visits, I decided to do it! This decision led directly to me breaking up with K.

2. Second, K had never dated anyone before me. I was his first kiss at age 21. I was not very experienced sexually and he had no experience at all, so our intimate life was… nonexistent. We didn’t have sex until we had been dating for three years. Neither of us even realized how strange that was until much later. And in case you are wondering, there wasn’t much of any other kind of intimacy either aside from kissing and holding hands. When we finally had sex, it became clear that we were rather awkward together. It also became clear that K probably had an issue with premature ejaculation. No matter what we did, intercourse would only last a minute or two. This became rather disheartening for both of us, but especially for me. Neither of us had the confidence to talk about it with each other or to our close friends. When I broke up with K, I did not consciously think to myself, “I am doing this because our sex life is miserable.” However, I was so devastated by the break-up that I began seeing a therapist for depression and suicidal thoughts. It was awful to suddenly have K out of my life and he seemed so angry with me. After months of therapy, I was able to admit that our lack of intimacy made me really unhappy. My therapist helped me feel a lot less guilty for wanting a more sexually complete and less controlling relationship.

So, as I said before, I moved to a new city about 12 months ago. There, I developed an active social life and even began dating again (though I kept thinking about K and reaching out to him to try to rekindle our friendship). I got a new boyfriend – let’s call him S. In a bizarre change for me, S and I had amazing sexual chemistry. I feel like it’d be obnoxious to go into detail, but let’s just say on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 15. I imagine that what we have what Gossip Girl screenwriters like us to imagine Chuck and Blair have going on. I know, “Ew” but you get what I’m saying? And it’s not just great intimacy. S had a crush on me years ago when his band came through my college town on tour. He reportedly told a mutual friend “I could marry that girl” after we first met. He has been 100% committed to me and we have fun together. I feel relaxed with him. So what is the problem? Well, S doesn’t hold a candle to K in any department outside of the bedroom. I can’t picture myself marrying him and he certainly wouldn’t do Peace Corps with me or even go to the public library on a Saturday. His parents still pay some of his bills and he goes out drinking 4 or 5 nights a week after playing music. He sleeps in until noon on most days. Forget about having a steady job or a plan for his future. I hate to say it, but I think you could call S your typical hipster man-child. Recently, we started talking seriously about my plans to leave the country for an extended period of time for volunteer work. He admitted that he wanted me to cancel my plans and stay with him, or he was thinking about breaking up with me right before I got on the plane. I took a deep breath and ended our relationship. Shortly afterward, he begged to get back together and pledged that he would never leave me. I didn’t say yes, but I didn’t say no either. I told him I wanted to cut off communication and that I would think over what he had said for an indefinite period of time.

With that hanging over my head, I decided to see K again. We spoke honestly and openly about the two problems I described above. He surprised me by revealing that he had done a lot of soul-searching and research on those issues. He unequivocally apologized for isolating me and for pressuring me to talk about my love life with previous boyfriends. He demonstrated that he had begun hanging out with female friends one-on-one and he said that realized that he had been unfair in making so many assumptions about my friendships with other males. He even dated another woman for a while, but he ended it because he didn’t feel that special spark.

For me, it was so easy to remember all of the awesome/beautiful parts of our relationship. We talked about getting back together. We went on a date. We held hands. We kissed. We slept together (unfortunately, it lasted only a few minutes). He said “I love you” and I said it back. Now, I am really confused.

MeFites, please be gentle. I swear to you my life is usually filled with reading books at home or volunteering at a homeless shelter -- not these kinds of antics. I don’t want my life to resemble a soap opera and I do not want to hurt K or S. But I am so torn about what to do next that I am making myself physically sick.

So here is it, stated plainly because anonymity makes it possible to do this: I want to reunite with K because I know we could build a beautiful life together, full of volunteering and family and travel and art and our shared dreams. I am confident that K will propose to me within the next 5 years if we got back together. I know would be a wonderful husband and father who would do everything he could to take care of his family. I know he would support me in my dreams to travel, to attend graduate school, and to continue to be an artist. I miss his companionship so deeply. It hurts to make art or climb trees or play music without him. But the thought of returning to our lackluster sex life has me terrified of feeling unfulfilled. And when I think of my recent relationship with S, I feel a longing for our intimacy. The thought of never feeling that way again makes me want to cry, as pathetic as that sounds.

So, MeFites: tell me please, if you have/had a relationship with a disappointing sex life and you have stayed together, how did you make it work? Did you get married? How is it working out? Do you regret your decision?
And if you decided that great sex/intimacy was more important than other qualities, how has that decision turned out for you? Do you regret not choosing a partner who could have been your match in other ways instead?
What do you think I need to understand about my decision? Follow-up email address:

Please help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

Sexual compatibility can, to some extent, be learned if two people both want to try.

You cannot learn to be someone's soul mate.

I got lost about halfway through your post but it seems clear you love K, S was just fun to sleep with. You see no future there.

Seems a clear decision.
posted by mazienh at 6:34 PM on March 25, 2010

Neither of these guys sounds like a perfect fit for you. You don't have to choose one or the other. There are lots of dudes out there. Good luck.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:38 PM on March 25, 2010 [61 favorites]

Sex is a bit like playing the piano - it takes a while to pick it up, you get progressively better at it, and the damned thing requires tuning once every so often or it'll start acting funny. Also, like piano, if you don't listen to what you're doing, improvement will be slow.

Sex is more or less important for some people. I think having the same ballpark _needs_ (not skillz or whatever, but "I would like to do it roughly this amount", "I would like someone who did x to me") as a long term partner is very important. This said, you're young, both of you are/were inexperienced - sheesh, when I first started doing it, I had a _lot_ to learn! Things could be radically different in a year's time. Also, on a practical note: P in V is not the begginning or end of sex.

Personally, I would be more bothered about the other jealousy stuff then a few issues in the bedroom. Bedroom can be worked on and improved. Weird psycho behaviour is a lot harder to iron out.

Either way, your sex stallion sounds like a dud in every department but the bedroom. Six months' investment to see how much the other guy has changed, and how much he can pick up his game in the bedroom sounds like a pretty good investment if he's all that you say he is. The best part of improving your sex life is that the study is fun! (also, young guys tend to go off if you look at them cock-eyed; don't underestimate this. The flip side is they recover fast. Maybe think about taking care of him first, and then devoting lots of time to a round 2 about five minutes later).
posted by smoke at 6:38 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with mazienh, but you might also want to address the jealousy issues with K, either by yourselves or with a therapist.

(Also -- you don't mention it in your post, but you know that these aren't your two options, right? You can go on your volunteering trip for a few years and have those experiences without having to choose between K and S)
posted by OLechat at 6:40 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

K had extreme jealousy and social issues, even if he claims to be over them, and the sex was awful. S is really only compatible with you sexually.

Limiting your choices to those two partners seems like the worst decision you could make.
posted by ripley_ at 6:43 PM on March 25, 2010 [31 favorites]

You've set yourself up with a false-dichotomy here. The solution is that neither of these guys is a match for you.

Neither of them.

I have been in a relationship with a disappointing sex life. We got married because I told myself that being with such a good-hearted, kind person, someone whose values I admired and who I got along with so well was more important than great sex. I was wrong. Very wrong.

Divorced and now in a relationship with someone who I have the best sex of my life with and who "gets" me in so many other ways. I realize that great sex and intimacy are absolute deal breakers. These things do ebb and flow, but if you don't have them from the beginning it is very difficult to get to that place once you are already in the "comfortable" stage of a relationship. Believe me I tried.

You need to find that partner who is your match sexually and who fits in with your current life goals. Leave the country to volunteer. Do your thing. Meet new guys and see what is out there. Don't settle for one or the other. Have both.
posted by ephemerista at 6:44 PM on March 25, 2010 [14 favorites]

A disappointing sex life doesn't have to remain that way forever. Premature ejaculation is a very common problem and it can be dealt with.

Tips For Curing Premature Ejaculation

Treatments and drugs


As long as you two can talk about sex, you should be able to fix this.

feel a longing for our intimacy. The thought of never feeling that way again makes me want to cry, as pathetic as that sounds.

There's nothing pathetic about it. It's completely normal to feel that way. But sex gets better the more you do it. And practicing is fun!

The jealousy issue is a bigger problem. You need to be absolutely sure that's gone if your relationship with K is going to work.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:48 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

to repeat something i said a year ago, if you ever find yourself trying to decide between two people you aren't ready for either of them.

also: all this -

He repeatedly interrogated me for hours about the boyfriends I had before him
If I even spoke to another guy, K would become alternately sullen or emotional.
When we were living together, I felt extremely isolated.
K insisted that we leave social events early if I talked to other guys
he insisted that I was cheating on him.
I felt like I had no one else in my life except him.

that's a lot of shit to jump back into because he said he's all better now. couple that with the weird "don't follow your dreams or i'll break up with you" from the other guy - and i think you need to stretch your wings and find that not all men are controlling, passive aggressive tools.

finally, it took me a long time to learn something - you don't have to settle, you just have to be ok with letting go when someone isn't right for you. let these guys go. go out there and meet lots of people. have dates, have amazing sex, and worry about the marriage stuff after you find a great partner that makes your brain and your toes curl.
posted by nadawi at 6:52 PM on March 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

For what it is worth... and take it from the perspective of someone much older, and married for 25 years- as my dear ol' dad told me at 16... "son, you spend a hell of alot of time in the living room, not all of it in the bedroom". That said- given the description you gave of K- I would RUN from him - and do NOT look back. No one- repeat this NO ONE, male or female should be in a relationship that does not have trust in it- and with his jealously issues he has some serious trust issues. It is a danger sign beyond belief and a recipe for a horrible relationship in the long run. My fellow me-fi's, male and female will back me on that one.

As far as option "S"- sex is great, and damn important to any relationship, but if you don't have the same basic life time goals- he is a band-aid in the works.

How about option "X"- you date some other guys- get a feel for what other kinds of relationships might be out there. I'm not saying sleep with them... just see if maybe that passion and spark with K can be found elsewhere. Seriously? Anyone with those kind of seriously jealously issues needs long-term help. My thoughts... of course- YMMV
posted by bytemover at 6:52 PM on March 25, 2010

Your choice doesn't come down to true love or great sex. Your choice is

1. K
2. S
3 neither, freedom, someone else who you haven't met yet

K is controlling. It disturbs me that he was isolating you. I know he says he's changed, but people don't change that easily. Also, controlling people will sometimes tell you what you want to hear. I would be very careful getting back together with him. (Actually, if it were me, I would have broken up with him long ago, but I have a low tolerance for that stuff.)

S. has some growing up to do, but some people are late bloomers. Maybe you can't make plans with him, but it sounds like he's fun to be with for now. And, it sounds like he's giving you something you need for now.

I think you deserve someone who is compatible with you sexually, intellectually, has similar ambitions for his life, loves you for who you are, and is funny, too. I'm not sure either of these guys is it.

(FWIW, my husband and I have been together for 25 years, married for 20. I don't think we had the sexual fireworks that you and S have, but it's always been good and enthusiastic. And we have the other stuff, too - respect, trust, all of it.)
posted by zinfandel at 6:54 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

If I was in your place I would choose C...none of the above. K sounds like a young love, everything is perfect in our world (if you overlook his borderline personality disorder) kind of thing. S sounds like great sex...and that's all. I think you should move on from both of these guys. You will find a more adult kind of love/life partner relationship if you give it some time. The sex may not be as perfect as with S and the soulmate thing may not be as perfect as with K but the overall relationship/get married/have three kids thing will probably work out better with someone who is more mature. You will end up miserable if you have to put up with K's jealousy or S's immaturity for years on end.
posted by MsKim at 6:56 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with those who say that neither one is the one for you. You miss K's good qualities - which sound like great qualities - but the one for you is someone who has those qualities but who isn't K.

The sex thing, while certainly significant, is not the real problem with K. His jealousy and control issues are.

It sounds as though you are a creative, energetic, independent person. From your own description of it all, you have great friends with whom you live(d) who are good for you and lots of fun and supportive of you. You also have concrete plans for volunteer work abroad. So why not enjoy your independence and focus on your friends and goals and keep an eye out for someone who will be emotionally on the same page as you in a relationship?
posted by sueinnyc at 6:57 PM on March 25, 2010

To me if a relationship has that many problems after 3 years it is a zombie part of the living dead. I agree with the people who said don't limit yourself to these two choices. Also, remember you don't know what the future will bring you only know what is now. Contain yourself to that.
posted by Rubbstone at 6:58 PM on March 25, 2010

S was what is known as the "transition guy." You needed a no-strings-attached, hedonistic fling, and he gave it to you. And that's fine, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it.

K is your best friend. He is, frankly, a better friend than a lover. You can choose to work on that, and it might get better, as long as you two can communicate.

The biggest hurdle in the way is not the sex. You were both inexperienced, which might have had something to do with how disappointing it was for both of you (yes, K too, because when a man loves a women he generally wants her to be satisfied too, and you obviously weren't), and now you are a little more experienced.

The jealousy, though, and the forced isolation, are HUGE red flags. Emotional abuse starts with these behaviors. So do NOT get back into a relationship with K until you are 100% sure that those insecurities are also a thing of the past, also born of inexperience.

Otherwise, K is solid "best friend" material, S is history, and you have yet to find your future "soulmate."
posted by misha at 7:01 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

S is obviously out as long term material.

K sounds like "maybe we'll get it right next lifetime" material. Doesn't mean you can't be friends and travel the world etc. etc. Just don't get romantically mixed up again.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:26 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your vision of fighting for social justice, etc., to me, sounds like overplanning, like the kind of person who won't date someone new and different because they don't fit the vision they had in their head. I think you should dump both guys and find someone who is great in bed and can expose you to some new experiences that are different than what you're used to.
posted by anniecat at 7:31 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think your soul mate is supposed to interrogate you until you cry.
posted by mhoye at 7:35 PM on March 25, 2010 [22 favorites]

I'm normally the kind of guy to give advice that sides with the majority of this thread, but I think sometimes some people carry so much insecurity into their first relationship that they royally screw it up with jealousy and other controlling behaviors. I don't think that's it's a terrible idea to get back with the ex, but take it slowly and consider couples counseling. And, well, the sex part can be improved if you learn to talk about it.
posted by advicepig at 7:40 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know he would support me in my dreams to travel, to attend graduate school, and to continue to be an artist.

Really? What if those dreams included you having friends, colleagues, partners, classmates, professors who are male? You still haven't figured that part out yet. I know what he said, but he has not demonstrated that he has changed and years worth of evidence says that you will not be able to be with him and maintain your social live or individual creativity.

I have to say that you might have a bit of a penchant for drama that is not serving you well--no one's heart is going to get broken or, perhaps it will, but the reality of it is that it happens all the time and it's not a big deal. Really. It'll be okay. They both did without you for a long time and they will be fine without you in the future.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:00 PM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

In the School of Hard Knocks, you've barely begun attending Intimate Relationships 101. Not only are you no where near ready for "the final," your textbook still smells new, and your notes are, well, limited. Attend a bunch more lectures, do all the homework, and especially, do a lot more lab/field work. A reasonable degree of personal experimentation methodology and development is vital to overall success on "the final."
posted by paulsc at 8:02 PM on March 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

K's a douchebag and S is Mr. Right Now. Keep fooling around with S until you find somebody who is actually great, instead of being a controlling jerk. And stop evaluating partners on some preconceived list that includes whether they're going to join the Peace Corp or volunteer at a homeless shelter. Those are things a great partner might decide to join you in after you've established a respectful, nurturing, fun, lighthearted, meaningful relationship.

Which it sounds like you've never had. Stop choosing between lame and unimpressive.
posted by anildash at 8:19 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Agree with Misha: S was what is known as the "transition guy." You needed a no-strings-attached, hedonistic fling, and he gave it to you. And that's fine, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it.

I think one of the hardest things about this is that things seemed so perfect with K, if he just didn't have this problem of being controlling. You can't just cut one part of a person out and have the rest stay the same. I believe it's going to take a lot of work to turn the controlling behaviour around and it might change him in other ways as well -- for example, his PE issues may be related. Who knows. If you get back together with him, I suggest that you focus heavily on his controlling behaviour, in conjuction with the PE stuff. Don't let yourself get lost in all the bliss and perfectness. Make it clear to him that if the controlling behaviour comes back in any way (and be warned: his controlling behaviour may now take on forms different from what you've experienced previously, so it may be harder to identify them as controlling), the relationship is over. So you have to get really, really clear with yourself and him about how the controlling behaviour affected you and make sure he shows remorse for it and commits to not being like that and going to a therapist. It's going to take a lot of change and work. In the meantime, he should show support for you hanging out with people, trust you for keeping things platonic with other guys, etc. If he feels jealous and threatened, tell him to talk it out and not scream at you. He has to be responsible for his behaviour, not you.

Your other option is to not get back together with him. Give him time to work out his shit, like a year or more. You'll definitely find others in the meantime.

I'm willing to give K the benefit of the doubt that he doesn't know what he's doing and is not aware of the effect of the abusive behaviour on you. This article, while geared to parents to have talks with their teenage sons, may have some relevance to you. (Please ignore the comments below the article; it's your usual backlash from men who say women are abusive too. Which IS an issue, of course, but I really can't stand the victim-y tone of the comments. Don't read them.)
posted by foxjacket at 8:23 PM on March 25, 2010

In no way do I wish to insult your detailed question with a curt answer, so I will be brief and then verbose.

Brief answer: forget about K, take from S what you need, and keep looking for Mr "X"

More rambling answer:

Forget about K because you already left him. No matter what you want, I'd be highly skeptical that you two could build a healthy relationship. It sounds like your relationship with K was founded amidst distrust (his) and your break up and experimentation can only make things worse with K (and sure, he can change, but I think I'm always skeptical of romantic rekindlings in any context, and your context just seems like it would be even harder...).

Moreover, your first paragraph sounds almost too great, like you could be imagining how idyllic it was w/ K, in the absence of the clear, strong misgivings you voice a paragraph later.

It really, really sounds to me like your relationship with K might be have always been better in theory that it ever was in practice.

S? Well, hot sex isn't the long-term answer for most people (nor for you, it sounds like) but you shouldn't let longings for K rob you of that "15" that most of us may only get a quick glimpse of...and as a guy, I'd say you should be honest with S and tell him where you stand and don't lead him on if he's really hoping for more than you're willing to give.

And X?...well, I don't know when/where/how he enters the picture, but it certainly must be well after you've let go of K. Who knows who X will be, but he'll be a more mature love for you. You'll know what you want (shared interests), what you don't want (insecurity, distrust, jealousy) and what would like but would not require (Chuck and Blair).

Hey, you honestly sound like a great person. I don't say it lightly, that I think you'll make the best decision for you. Good luck. Take care. And maybe even let us know how it turns out.
posted by DavidandConquer at 8:26 PM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with C...none of the above. Last I checked, half of the world's population was male. But spending some time alone just learning who you are might be the best option. Learn to love your life and yourself, and you'll eventually attract a great guy.
posted by Nematoda at 8:26 PM on March 25, 2010

I agree with everyone else that these are not your only two choices. You're in your mid-20's? I think you should take at least 2 years before considering getting back together with either of those guys -- and make sure you meet as many people as you can in those two years. Especially try to meet people while doing all the things you love.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:27 PM on March 25, 2010

Please don't think about moving to be with K. Maybe sometime in the future that relationship might be worth exploring again but not so soon, especially if he hasn't been in any other serious relationships to test out the controlling issue. Go explore, have fun, live life for yourself and figure out who you are before you tie yourself to any particular guy long term.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:30 PM on March 25, 2010

I think you should kindly restore K to his position as a dear friend. It's clear there's something lacking between you, for despite the amazing interpersonal (and platonic) aspects of your relationship, I disagree that sexual chemistry can be learned. You are a kind and intelligent young lady who has years ahead of her to meet & discover new partners. Most of them will not work out, but that's the way of life. It doesn't really sound like you have a real connection with S, so he probably won't last. Despair not, darling, you've got a lot of good coming your way.
posted by wild like kudzu at 8:39 PM on March 25, 2010

I know this may sound pretty harsh, but K doesn't sound like true love to me. In fact, he sounds fairly emotionally abusive. You might check out Scarleteen, which is a sex-ed website for teens and young adults. For my money, Heather Corinna--the founder and site runner--is one of the sanest people out there talking about sex and relationships, period.

Corinna wrote an article about the cycle of abuse that's really enlightening, even though not all of it may apply to your relationship with K. Scarleteen is also the place where I first saw the abusive partner checklist which is equally helpful in reframing these things. Good luck in sorting this out. And, also, I think it's worth repeating what other people have said: there are other fish in the sea, so your choice isn't just between K or S forever and ever.
posted by colfax at 8:40 PM on March 25, 2010

One more vote for "none of the above." K is controlling and sucks in bed; S is a disappointing man-child. Neither of them is the person you want to live the rest of your life with.

Go ahead, join the Peace Corps or whatever, meet fun and fabulous and sexy guys, and hook up with the one (or the many) who makes your heart flutter and with whom you connect. The world is full of guys who don't totally suck in bed and who aren't controlling weirdos, and yet manage to have ambition and want nothing more than an awesome partner to share great experiences with.

tl;dr: There are lots of compromises you'll make in life -- don't make this be one of them.
posted by Forktine at 8:55 PM on March 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

The truth is that I tend to believe the "none of the above" answers, but let me play devil's advocate. First love soul mates are awesome, and they're actually pretty rare. I wouldn't trade that for my life now, but for years and years, I half-wished I'd made it work with mine. So, give it your very best shot.

The problem for me was that I was a total idiot, and it took me about ten years to get over that. It's likely the same with you, no offense. So if you stick with K, recognize that there are probably three to four core parts of who you are and manifest in numerous ways, that you don't know about yet and need to discover. So, if you stay with him, you need to figure out how to see them.

- Go to therapy together. I know it's expensive, but honestly, what else are you going to spend money on? Beer? Social justice? (kidding) You're young, and investing $45 apiece every week now (or whatever) will pay off for like 81 years. If you go when you're 50, you'll miss out on the awesome 30s that you're going to have after you figure all this stuff out. Find someone you really, really like, and tell them that you really like each other and just want to learn how to make this work.

- As a precondition for getting back together, tell him you learned how much you love to have a full suite of friends, female and male, and to have a full social life. Explain in the most idealistic and joyful ways possible that this is something that's important to you, and important to making the world a better place. Make this something that you guard and protect. You gave it up once, and then you learned that it's what made you feel like yourself again. Having a circle of friends helps you remember who you are. Don't lose that. (Seriously. Protect it from him.)

- Talk about negative things together. Get into the muck of life a little bit. Not like, "and I'm going to fix these things and one day be perfect!" Like, "when I'm honest with myself, I feel these really negative emotions, and I don't know how to deal with this." Your relationship sounds extremely idealistic, and a bright light casts a long shadow. I suspect that part of what was so good with S was that you were being REAL, not being perfect. I wonder if you can be your real, flawed self with K. I worry that your connection with him is about being perfect, which is a form of escapism. In fact, for me, that kind of connection has felt like being on drugs. If your relationship never goes beyond the intoxicating quest for perfection and escaping from problems or discomforts in each of your own relationships with yourselves and your families, and within your daily lives, it will always be vulnerable from people like S who, I'm guessing, see and accept you more for who you really are now.

I tend to believe that if you and he find a way to get more real with one another, and more emotionally honest and intimate, you will be able to develop intimacy and great sex on top of what you share now. Or that by insisting on having a full social life, not bending to his controlling instincts, it will self-destruct. If you go option C, that's a great choice as well.
posted by salvia at 9:03 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

There are oodles of guys out there just aching to tag along with you to the library on Sundays and the Peace Corps in a couple of years.

You are young, you have plenty of time to meet your soul mate. Don't be entirely shocked if they don't match any of your preconceptions of who the right person is.

Here is how you will know you have met the right person: it will all feel easy. They'll be fun to hang out with, the sex will be great, you'll connect on many levels. They won't be jealous or freak out and their lifestyle won't leave you frustrated or disappointed. They won't be perfect. But they'll be just right for you.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:24 PM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'll just pop in here to say that what you're describing with K sounds a lot like the early stages of the relationship I eventually ended up leaving.

You are an intelligent, free, delightfully young person. Go out and date until you find someone you can't imagine being without. Sex should be great. You should never have to worry about the possibility that you may never be fulfilled, sexually. And you should never have to deal with the crap you got from K.
posted by eleyna at 9:47 PM on March 25, 2010

You deserve great soulful happy sex, don't let anyone convince you otherwise! Don't waste any time on trying to make someone who safe and like a brother into a lover. There is probably a perfect girl out there for him who doesn't need or want much sex and will happily lie there for his 2 min every Sunday in order to have kids.

Also, I don't think you can train someone to have good sex with you. People are either great to begin with, or need several partners to instruct them over a long period to be better.
posted by meepmeow at 9:48 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I suggest you work more on what's blocking your decisionmaking circuit rather than focus on facts about situations.

Do not make promises or sleep with either of them until this is figured out.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:05 PM on March 25, 2010

You can work on sexual comparability to a certain extent. And even couples with a great sex life should be open to talking about specific desires, interests, needs, etc. Partners should be willing to step out of their comfort zone to a certain extent if it's something the other one wants to try/experience/explore.

But there are limits. Some people are just wired differently. I've been in two different relationships where I felt like the warmth and love component was great, but there were just obvious differences in the -- how shall I say it? -- level of sexual desire. Trying some new things or talking openly would have helped a little, but just wouldn't have gotten over the gut-level chemistry issues.

I'm older now, but while part of me wishes I'd worked harder at compromising a bit, I still feel as if moving on was the right thing to do for both of us.

As for your specific situation, my first thought was "Wow, you're young." And that's not to dismiss you, it's just to say that you should probably date other guys. Sounds like you'll find plenty who fall somewhere between the emotional satisfaction with K. and the kink satisfaction with S. Seems like your happy medium would be somewhere out there in the future.

And fwiw, the control issues with K. are definite blaring red warning signals.
posted by bardic at 10:18 PM on March 25, 2010

They are both losers (for different reasons), and you have about 3 billion other options. Spend some time being single, and don't compromise yourself with either one of these guys.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:14 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You want "G" - Guy you have not met yet who will treat you with respect, trust you, "get" you, and who will fulfill you sexually. Good luck & enjoy your adventures!
posted by pointystick at 7:59 AM on March 26, 2010

Definitely don't get back together with K- if you thought his questions about past relationships were controlling before, just imagine how he'll react now that you *have* had mind-blowing sex. The being-over-controlling is a temporary thing. Neither of these guys is your long-term partner or your soulmate.
posted by questionsandanchors at 8:07 AM on March 26, 2010

I would dump S. He sounds like a loser. Maybe keep his number in your phone if you need a booty call. From how you describe him, he will not mind being a booty call.

K sounds like he is your perfect best friend! You should see if you can be friends! If you managed to not be intimate for 3 years living together in your early 20s, then you were pretty much friends more than a couple (unless you have religous / spiritual / dietary / whatever restrictions on sex before marriage / pregnancy / getting a promise ring / whatever ).

With all the cool stuff you want to do in your life, I really think you would be better of being single for a while. Things like the Peace Corps can be hard to arrange to go into together. Also such experiences are the perfect places to broaden your social circle and mating pool. LEave you options open and take relationships as they come. Get rid of that mid-twenties inner sanctum nagging telling you to plan for marriage NOW (I really really understand that sucks, but ignore it.) Live your life and everything will fall into place.

Also, don't kill yourself and keep seeing a therapist to help with those thoughts. All the stuff you talk about having done and wanting to do makes me jealous of your life. Don't throw it away.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:05 AM on March 26, 2010

Nthing BobbyDigital, there are plenty of fish in the sea! You are very young and there will be more men, and taking care of your heart is more important than worrying about how the person you break up with will feel. Their feelings are not your responsibility.

Ask yourself, in the ideal circumstances what would you want? Would you like to go volunteer? make art? maybe take a loan and go to grad school? These are all options you have regardless of the men in your life.

I have been single for quite a few years now and I have used this time to discover things about myself that I may not have found had I been in a relationship. My idea of the guy I wanted in my mid twenties is way different from the the guy I want in my early thirties. There is a mention in your post about being married in 5 yrs., Trust me these deadlines we set for ourselves are all in our head. Life can work out way differently.

This quote by Mark Twain sums up what I would like to say,

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Feel free to Memail if you would like.
posted by VickyR at 9:21 AM on March 26, 2010

stop evaluating partners on some preconceived list that includes whether they're going to join the Peace Corp or volunteer at a homeless shelter

Agreed! What if you skipped over someone because they have different political views? Or don't make art? Or never volunteered a day in their life?

You might be missing out on someone who could challenge you intellectually, teach you a different skill, or show you that generosity and social activism comes in different forms.
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:09 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

My first thought was, like everyone else, "C: Other!"

Then I realized what a big fat freaking hypocrite I would be.

Let me explain. I'm engaged to be married to the man I love more than I will ever be able to express. It's just easy to be with him - no nervousness, no jealousy, easy laughter, and easy silence. But it wasn't always that way. Once, long ago... I was K, and he was you.

My man, D, and I have known each other since high school. We dated for a year in high school, broke up, I left the school, and we didn't see each other for years. When I came back to town five years later, I called him up. The moment I saw him, after all that time, I was passionately, madly in love all over again.

I ended up moving in with D and his roommates, and you can guess what happened from there. We decided to become an official item - and spent the next two years making each other miserable. We had a great time with each other, most of the time, but we were around 20 years old, and really inexperienced in the love department.

He had some problems, but I was the biggest raging jealous asshole girlfriend of all time (OF ALL TIME!). I did exactly what K did to you - I grilled him about exes and how hot they were and how much he loved them and how often they had sex and was it better than ours and am I the fattest girl you've ever been with and I don't think you REALLY love me and all sorts of straight-up crazy weirdo stuff. I never let him hang out with other girls, and only rarely with other guys - I figured they'd go out and get drunk and he'd meet someone hotter/better/whateverer than me and leave. Just like you, he was in bed by 11 on Saturday nights, unless he was up fighting with me. Our sex was good, sometimes, but I had mega self-esteem issues that prevented me from ever really getting into it. Instead of losing myself in what was probably great sex, I figured he was looking at my cellulite or thinking of someone else or who the hell knows. I was certifiably bat-shit fucking crazy.

We managed to date for a couple years, but we'd still end up having these fights or cryfests or grill sessions at least once a week, and they would end up in HUGE fights - like, "I HAVE A KNIFE I'M GOING TO KILL MYSELF OR YOU" kind of fights. Looking back on it, knowing the kind of people we are, it just sounds unbelievable. We're not like that! We really never *were* those people - so how did it get like that? Easy - we just didn't know any better.

We didn't have much in the way of previous relationships to measure against. We certainly didn't have any "prototypes" - those relationships that are close, but not quite there. If we had, we both would have been better at putting into words what we wanted and did not want. We might have been better at keeping our personal boundaries, and knowing how much space we needed. We didn't have enough experience to know or even consider that the stuff I was doing was abusive. If that had occurred to me, I would have been horrified to realize what I was doing (and to this day, I still am).

So we broke up. I moved out of the house, he started seeing the "village bicycle," I had a couple rebound relationships. More importantly, though, we had some space. We started planning our lives separately. We didn't talk much for a while, but over time we'd chat online for a few minutes every now and then. He learned some things about himself, about what he wanted out of life. Me too. I learned that I was pretty hot, and that I even felt that way when I wasn't actively receiving male attention. I learned from one of those rebounds - more a booty call than a boyfriend - how easy it could be for two people's needs to just intersect, instead of forming ourselves around some notion of what love is and how it JUST HAD to last forever and be perfect. I learned from the other rebound that I had some pretty specific needs, intellectually, and I started to think back fondly on the way me and D connected on... well, just about everything. I learned to communicate like a normal person - I had to! When you start dating adults they expect you to act like one, too.

After a while, D and I talked more and more. We even hung out a few times in a totally platonic setting. It hurt a bit, and probably wasn't the greatest idea, but we even talked a little about our love lives.

One night, we were hanging out with a couple friends and all of a sudden we started talking at the same time - about how we missed each other, about how good just hanging out felt, and, as the night wore on, about how much we wanted to have mad passionate monkey sex. With each other. And then we did just that.

Now, I don't advise a night of semi-drunken confessional sex as a building block for a successful relationship, but for us, there's something there and there always has been. Twice, we found each other and we weren't ready. The third time... we were.

It's been years now since all that happened, and I *still* cannot believe what awful, controlling, mean, jealous shits we were to each other sometimes. But it wasn't because we were doomed - it was because we were inexperienced, and had some unrealistic ideas, and didn't know that these things take work and self-love and whole lot of other stuff that just can't be learned any other way but by going through it yourself. I'm glad we tried again that last time - I wonder what my life would be like if I missed out on this amazing man, this person who is going to be my husband and is already my best friend, the Luigi to my Mario, the person I look up to and across the table at and who I see every single morning when I wake up. I feel like someone could pick us up and separate us, plop us down in separate quadrants of the universe, and we would find each other. Always. Every time.

What does this have to do with you and K? Not much, really, except that maybe you don't need to go right back to him and maybe you don't need to write him off forever. Maybe you both need a little more experience before you can say, "that was it! I had it!" Maybe you'll find that that he was a prototype - and that's okay too.

Just live your life for you, and if, while he's living his own life for him, your paths cross again - well, you'll know what to do.
posted by m_lazarus at 4:02 PM on March 26, 2010 [7 favorites]

I know would be a wonderful husband and father who would do everything he could to take care of his family.

Really? How do you know this? The evidence seems to point to the contrary. I would be terrified of having a child with a man who isolated and manipulated me in the way you describe. Really, I'm curious - what qualities about K make you think he'd be a "wonderful father"? Note: bird-watching, kite-flying, library-going does not automatically disqualify Dad from horrifically damaging the child's well being in other ways.

The anecdote about K becoming jealous when you met someone who reminded you of your little brother really thew me off. How would he handle it if you had a child who was as important (to you) as him? Is he going to be jealous of that child, for "stealing" your undivided attention?
posted by pants at 5:08 AM on March 27, 2010

People almost never really change that much. It's far more likely that K is just pretending to be different to get you back, and then he'll go back to being an emotionally abusive jerk.

The best way to find Mr. Right is to stop wasting time with Mr. Wrongs. K has already shown himself to be a bad match -- don't date him anymore.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:59 PM on March 27, 2010

wow, K is the perfect partner ..... except that he's an abusive asshole!
posted by saturn~jupiter at 8:14 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

and a lousy lay to boot.
posted by saturn~jupiter at 8:16 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Absolutely give K another go. If in 6 months things aren't good, what didya lose? You're so freakin' young as it is.

Please don't become another married, 2 kids, white-picket fence spouse who spends the rest of his/her life longing for the "one that got away" from his/her youth and torturing their spouse because they aren't exactly like, in your case, Mr. public library, artsy, Peace Corps-guy.

Really see if he's your fantasy guy...if not, you'll be able to move on and be a better partner to someone else down the road.
posted by teg4rvn at 9:11 AM on March 29, 2010

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