All the umbrellas in London couldn't stop this rain, and all the dope in New York couldn't kill this pain
August 11, 2010 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Every breakup is its own special snowflake. Should I try to put the pieces back together or is it time to cut losses and go our seperate ways? (Sorry, this is going to get long)

Gay relationship, met at university in our early 20s away from both our homes. He moved halfway across the country to be with me in my city after graduation. 5 and a half years together, unofficially engaged for the last year and a half, officially engaged for the past six months. Plan was to get married in the spring.

This is the first relationship for both of us, for me he's the only person I've been with period. Everything was just easy for almost the entirety of our relationship, we've had our own personal issues that we've seen each other through, but we've never fought or really questioned our future together, until now.

For the last few years, we've been living together but working opposite schedules, me days him nights, so we only really had much time together on the weekends. That changed a few months ago, when I took a job that has me working nights as well.

Having a bit more time together has sort of revealed some cracks in our relationship. We don't really know what to do when we're alone together. We still get along, but our time together can be a bit awkward and dull. Our sex life has dropped significantly in the past year or two, we're down to once a week, if we're lucky.

If that was all, I'd chalk it up to a normal low period in a relationship, try to improve it, and see how things went after a few months. But there's someone else involved...

Enter R, my boyfriend's former boss, who has always had a bit of a crush on him. A year or two ago, R found out my pet name for my man, and started calling him it at the office. A little icky, right? My boyfriend thought so too and put a stop to it.

Time goes by, they both get promoted so they're not working so closely together, and my man's not reporting to R anymore. They start to develop a friendship outside of work. I'm a little uneasy about it knowing about R's crush, but my boyfriend assures me he's over it, and that I should be happy that he's developing one of the first really close friendships in a new city.

As their relationship grows stronger and stronger, and the three of us start hanging out any more, I let my boyfriend know I'm uncomfortable with the situation, and he's very quick to shut me down, kind of harshly. I let it go, as I'm happy he has a friend and I trust him completely.

R's about 12 years older than us, and a bit of a sad sack. My man is really bringing him out of his shell. We introduce him to all the wonderful things we love, and my boyfriend starts going out dancing with him, a lot. This is I guess one of the few recurring issues in our relationship, that he likes to drink and dance and party every weekend, and I don't. I'll do it every once and a while, and have fun, but it's not something I really enjoy. So often when he goes out (previously with different groups of friends, now almost exclusively with R) I'll either do something with my own friends, or spend the night at home alone with video games or something.

Then my boyfriend starts spending the night at R's place after many of these nights of partying. He doesn't let me know, he just doesn't come home until around 4 the next day. BZZZZZZZZT! Big red flag, right? I know, 100% know, that he's not cheating on me, because if he was he wouldn't be able to hide it for a moment. Trust me, on that score anyway.

The first few times this happens, I'm weirded out, and mention this to him, and he assures me it's no big deal, they just didn't want to get seperate cabs at the end of the night. When it happens 3 Friday nights in a row, I ask him to at least cut back on it, I can understand every once and a while but every week is unacceptable. Also to at least call me or text me to let me know, so I'm not waiting up wondering if he's going to come home. He agrees, and maybe lets me know once or twice, and then it continues as before, but a bit less often, until recently at least.

R is now firmly entrenched in our relationship. We hang out all together all the time, usually at least twice in a weekend. He's a good guy and I like him a lot, but it's getting to be a bit much. Not only that, but I feel like I'm losing parts of my relationship to R. Not just going out dancing, but playing tennis, shopping, going out to eat, all sorts of things that I would do with my man are now being done without me. I feel like I'm losing my boyfriend by degrees.

A few weeks ago, we went to Montreal. I was excited for a weekend alone with my man, spending some time alone together on an adventure, reconnecting personally as well as sexually. Yeah, not so much. A little while after we decide to go, my man mentions how excited R is for the trip, as he's never been to Montreal. Wait, what? Oh, didn't I mention it? Argh.

So we all go, and have a nice time, but it's not really the romantic weekend I was hoping for. We have sex once, quickly, late at night. Yay.

So, here we are a few weeks later (Sorry for the length, I promise I'm winding down). Stuck alone together on Sunday, bored and not sure what to do, we suddenly start hashing it out.

Boyfriend admits he's torn between us, to the point where hanging out on the couch between the two of us is immeasurably awkward for him. He's blown away by how he's brought R back to life. Says R feels terrible about all of this because "he really likes you." Thanks.

It's like R has filled a void in my man's life, the exciting, partying, sexy void that all for all my love and support, and all the other wonderful things he tells me about, couldn't fill. I know, and everyone assures me, including my boyfriend, that I haven't done anything wrong, that I've been the best that I can be, and that's amazing. Just not enough it seems.

And maybe that's just the way it is. Since we've been working the same schedule, it's become clear that something isn't working, but I'd hoped it was just a normal ebb and flow, and we had to figure out how to be around each other more often again. But maybe not, maybe we just got together too young, and maybe the fact that we never had a reason to split up just hid the fact that we didn't really have a reason to stay together forever.

He says he feels stuck between two boyfriends. He says maybe moving here in the first place was a mistake (I know that's not true, it's a coping method he seems to use a lot, if something doesn't work out perfectly, it was a colossal waste of time). He says I'm like his family, and that's not enough. He says he loves our life together and hopes it can continue, but maybe in a different form. He says I'll never lose him. He says he hasn't cheated on me, "although I could have." (Here's your medal).

So now it really is like he has two boyfriends, we can't all be together, so we have to schedule time. I get my boyfriend Friday and Saturday, R can have him Thursday and Sunday.

I don't know what he wants. I don't know if he wants to try to make it work with me, run off to R, or take some time alone. Really we need to talk about it more, but we've agreed to take at least the week to think and table the discussion for a little while. Which has made for a bit of an awkward week at home.

I'm alone in my city now family wise too. I've talked to my parents, and they're very supportive. Talked to friends a bit, but haven't been able to have time with them in person yet. Really I just need a real hug.

I don't know what to do. Deep down I feel like it's over. If it was just the R thing, or just the distance between us, I think we could work it out. But it's such a twisted mess now that I don't think we can untangle it. I hate the idea of giving up, especially on someone I planned to be married to next year, but honestly I can't even begin to see a way out of this.

Sorry for the length, I just needed to get it all out. What do I do? Please no DTMFA. Although you're free to express the sentiment (and some have), there's really no motherfuckers here.
posted by Ceci n'est pas un sockpuppet to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's no need to dump him because he's long since dumped you. You're just the roommate he occasionally fools around with, according to what you've said here. He's actually dating the other guy.

Whether or not you can live with that, you'll have to decide, but it's long past time you stopped pretending it wasn't true.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:59 PM on August 11, 2010 [13 favorites]

Sounds like your man wants his freedom to go date R and live it up. Give it to him. But he doesn't get to go out and party with R and come home to you. No way. Sounds like somebody (and I think it should be him) needs to move out of the apartment and you two need to cease contact for awhile.

On preview: restless_nomad has it. Your guy "loves his life with you"- what part of life is he living with you, exactly? Sounds like he does everything with R.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:00 PM on August 11, 2010

I think your boyfriend wants to have his boyfriend and his other boyfriend, too. While it's great for him, it's not fair to you. While he may not be a MF, he certainly is, at the very least, inconsiderate to your feelings throughout a lot of this.

Breaking up with him isn't giving up any more than getting in a life raft is. The relationship is clearly sinking and your boyfriend has admitted to what amounts to an emotional affair.

He's obviously having more fun with R, mostly because it's more new and (presumably)unconsummated. He'll either string you along until that's no longer the case and it becomes consummated or you break up with him for having the affair.
posted by inturnaround at 2:01 PM on August 11, 2010

Restless_nomad is right. I am so sorry. There's nothing you can do to put these pieces back together. Despite your boyfriend's denials, you watched this happen and you knew exactly what what happening. You were right all along about what was progressing between your boyfriend and R. Now you'll know what this road looks like if a future boyfriend starts going down it in the future.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:02 PM on August 11, 2010

I don't know what to do. Deep down I feel like it's over.

I don't think there's really anything else to say. I think you're pretty much right about everything, I think you understand perfectly what happened. I also think you know what to do, you just don't like the idea very much, and you know, I don't blame you, but it doesn't change anything.
posted by nanojath at 2:02 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ever seen the movie Annie Hall? Remember that scene where they're on the airplane? It's the scene the audience can see coming a mile away but hopes that maybe, somehow, it won't happen and everything will suddenly be solved and everyone will be happy. Diane Keaton -- who's berated by her boyfriend, Woody Allen, for enjoying spending time with her professor more than him -- suddenly says: let's admit it, this relationship just isn't working anymore. And Woody Allen says:
A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.
Ouch. But ... it's such a relief when they finally admit it to each other.

Your first relationship ending, after 5 years, is going to be really painful, as you allude to in your heading. But you know it has to happen. What you have on your hands is a dead shark.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:12 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like he genuinely wants to be with both of you, because you each fulfill different needs in him. Perhaps he's not wired for monogamy? Alas, but you are. You can either stay with him, and keep hoping that he'll choose just you (painful), or tell him to take a hike (also painful); the advantage of the latter is that even though it'll hurt, it'll eventually heal, and you'll be emotionally available to move on.

If it were me, and the monogamy aspect was important to me, I would tell him to choose between us, and, if he chose R, I would say that we couldn't have any more contact at all, because it would be too painful.
posted by Melismata at 2:16 PM on August 11, 2010


Unfortunately, it sounds like it's already over between you and your man. I know it is easier said than done, however you need to let him go. He has clearly knocked down all your feelings of being uncomfortable about R. That's not fair. Everyone else is right in telling you to let him go. It's for the best.
posted by zombiehoohaa at 2:18 PM on August 11, 2010

I disagree with what Restless Nomad said, and the dead shark comment...
You state yourself; "I don't know what he wants. I don't know if he wants to try to make it work with me, run off to R, or take some time alone."
You have two options, either you can go all Jerry Springer, or you two can set down and talk to each other. That is the only advice that anybody can give you, and the only advice that will be helpful. Good luck, and remember, when you talk to your boy, make sure to express all of your thoughts and feelings. Don't end the discussion until all is hatched out.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 2:25 PM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Every breakup is its own special snowflake and you totally deserve to be able to tell every detail of it that is truly important, and each of them matter.

However, the first two paragraphs could exactly describe my first relationship with just a few of facts changed (went to college together, were together longer before we broke up) and the rest of the story is neatly parallel to yours as well, except that I can maybe give you a different perspective because

a) it was more years ago
b) I was in your boyfriend's role

We never had an R but we grew apart and had different interests. But that didn't stop us from loving each other completely, probably more than ever as the years went on. But as we grew up, we grew apart. We weren't the same guys we were at 27 that we were at 20. We cared about each other more than we could imagine. But unlike people who have their first awkward relationships in high school and then gradually date through college and then have out of college relationships that lead to marriage, we had tried to all those things as the same two people. And eventually we weren't compatible as a couple, even though we still loved each other. But we didn't know how to be adults or gay or gay adults without each other. So there we were.

And Lord knows we tried -- I bended more towards him, he towards me. But we never could completely click like we both realized (somewhat deeply) we deserved.

You seem like a great guy and have been totally understanding, in the exact same way that my boyfriend was. And though we only get your side of this at this point, I am sure that your boyfriend provides more to you than we are getting from this (besides security) because you wouldn't still be with him otherwise.

But sometime the thing to do with the person you love is to end it. Eventually, I did, because we were bending so much that we'd broken. I recommend that if it is really as hopeless as your post suggests, you think about doing the same.

But you're scared. And you could probably salvage something. But as much as you feel you are sacrificing, your boyfriend feels he is too. He's trying to be the good guy and have the life he wants without hurting you. (Yes, I admit to totally projecting here.) And he's scared too.

Since you're both scared, you're going to keep doing this same dance until something breaks.

Have more balls than I did and take action first. Show him an adapted version of what you've written here (if not the advice), and say that you think neither one of you want to keep living this way. It's not an ultimatum. It's the truth. Maybe as your face it together, you can adapt to make it work. But if not, at least you've done it honestly.

(Five years post-breakup, my ex and I are both happily with other guys and remain close -- much closer than we were by the time we finally broke up. Just because you end this phase of your relationship, it doesn't mean the whole relationship is over. And if you need a sounding board or anything, drop me a MeMail or email me.)

Good luck and take care.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:37 PM on August 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

I can't post much now but if you're in the NYC area, I know a few really good gay and polyamory-friendly counselors.

(I am NOT condoning or endorsing what is going on here, but I think you will have an easier time getting nuanced and empathetic couples counseling from someone who is familiar with these multiple person dynamics.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:12 PM on August 11, 2010

I can't post much now but if you're in the NYC area, I know a few really good gay and polyamory-friendly counselors.

Not to second-guess your recommendations (since I have no basis for doing that), but I don't really think a "polyamory-friendly" perspective is what the OP needs now. It's more like: the OP needs to make a clean break from his boyfriend, who seems like he either wants polyamory (but is afraid to ask for it) or wants to be in a monogamous relationship with R (and doesn't have the heart to decisively end things with the OP). In other words, I don't think the solution to the OP's specific problem is more open-mindedness to polyamory; the solution is to break up, because the relationship just isn't working out.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:50 PM on August 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

Jaltcoh, I don't think the relationship is currently very functional. On the other hand, such a long, committed relationship might really benefit from counseling. The dynamics involved will be familiar territory for someone who has experience working with polyamorous relationships. Hopefully that will save the OP from "what's the problem? They're not sleeping together." and "this guy is obviously abusive, DTMFA!"
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:29 PM on August 11, 2010


Personally I suspect that this is an infatuation, but I can't imagine that you can stay put in this relationship, unless you want to go the polyamory route (seems unlikely). Some part of him has moved on, even though it seems he didn't really want that to happen. Some part of him needed it to happen, and happen it did.

Maybe you need to just take a break for a while, let him sort it out. You're both young and still finding yourselves; maybe this is part of that process for him.

Obviously feelings are still there on both sides, so who knows? But You should probably get out of the situation for a while. You're not a default, and he shouldn't treat you that way. He's getting inconsiderate and hurtful, and I'd hate to see that get worse. But it probably will get worse. He's trying to think two thoughts at the same time.

It's a cage-rattler. He can't really tell what he wants right now, because you're a sure thing and R is new and exciting. Maybe he has to run with it for a while and see where it leads him. He's leaning toward it anyway. But you don't need to be in the crossfire of that one. He's got to do that on his own, without you as the fallback man. It wouldn't shock me if he changed his mind after a fairly short time, but then it's in your court, and you get to decide what you want.

If you were local I'd take you out for a drink. You have my sympathy, this can't be easy on you.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:33 PM on August 11, 2010

Good heavens. I'm sorry to hear this, I'm sure it's been rough on you. It sounds to me like this situation has gone on far too long. I've seen similar situations before. The couple drifts apart. One or both understand what's happening, but neither wants to pull the trigger and end it.

For your own well-being, just pull the trigger. It's great that things haven't become ugly between you, but I think it would be good for you to move on.
posted by cleverevans at 4:57 PM on August 11, 2010

I'm sorry to hear about this. Seconding the hugs.

I could write pages but I'll try to keep it short. I was behaving like your EX-boyfriend a while back and learnt some pretty sharp lessons about how NOT to be an asshole.

Don't listen to any of his propaganda. I cheated, I came out with reams of this bullshit myself. But the fact is, if someone behaves selfishly, then they are being self-centred assholes. You were going to be his HUSBAND, for chrissakes, but it doesn't sound like you featured in his decisions very much.

You do not need to listen to his crap about how he is such a nice guy, but gosh, wow, don't you appreciate how hard it is for him keeping two people happy? How difficult his decisions are? He's too nice, that's his problem, isn't it? He's rescued R, the charity case, but he still finds space in his big heart to care about you. What a champ.

Don't let this guy guilt you. He lied to you and he has made his choice that you are not his priority. His problems are none of your business. Tell him to go fuck himself for now, and decide whether or not you ever want to speak to him again when you feel he has less of a hold on you emotionally.

I hope you feel better for having vented. And feel confident about your future; I am sure there are a lot of exciting experiences waiting for you that you might have missed out on had you stuck with this same person. Embrace it!
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 5:19 PM on August 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Are you poly? To me, it sounds like you aren't. It's okay for this to be a deal breaker for you. Shit, even if you are poly, this doesn't sound like the "communicationfulfillingeveryonesneeds" kind of poly that people strive for.

No DTMFA, but maybe IJTTMO (It's Just Time To Move On).
posted by Leta at 7:36 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

He says he feels stuck between two boyfriends.


I don't know what he wants. I don't know if he wants to try to make it work with me, run off to R, or take some time alone.

So, you don't want DTMFA because he's not a MF. Fair enough. But, and I'm probably going to be beating this drum a lot around these parts, people who don't know what they want out of a relationship will hurt you just as much as assholes will. Every time. This kind of confusion doesn't make him a bad person, but it does make him toxic and dangerous to you, and you should put your relationship with him on hold until he sorts out what he wants.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:43 PM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

From what you say, it seems it's time to do the awful thing of loving him and letting him go - at least for now. The bottom line is this guy is not making you happy, and he's keeping you on the back-burner in case the other guy doesn't work out.

One thing you can probably be sure of is that R, with his new-found confidence, will soon ditch your boyfriend for something and more exciting, so your boyfriend will be left in the same position you are now. You can then choose to either be there for him, or you will have your own life to lead at this point.

Things changed, you've changed, he's changed. Love him and let him live his life how he wants to. You will then be free to do the same.

It's tough, very tough, but the pain will change to a dull ache and one day just be a memory.

((((((Ceci n'est pas un sockpuppet))))))
posted by stenoboy at 4:17 AM on August 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks very much everyone for your advice. It's really a difficult situation, but the more I talk to people the more I'm resigned to what I have to do.

As hurt as I am, it's driving me crazy thinking of hurting him by ending it and asking him to leave (all housing related stuff is in my name, almost all the furniture is mine.). I'm still trying to take care of him. I'm even in touch with his best friend in his hometown, trying to get them in contact so he has someone to talk to besides me and R. I didn't give her any specifics, just told her were in trouble and he needs her. But he's not taking her calls, probably because he feels guilty (she adores me, and has told him many times not to let me go).

All right, this is getting long again. Thanks so much for your cyber hugs, memails and kind words. One way or the other, things will shift this weekend.
posted by Ceci n'est pas un sockpuppet at 10:48 PM on August 12, 2010

Response by poster: It's done and he's gone. We're both sick with the loss of it. He can't believe how much he hurt me without meaning to. He said listening to it all made it sound like he didn't care about me at all, but we both know that's not true.

We had a long discussion, mercilessly free of acrimony, but we both knew what had to happen. I'm proud of myself for talking it out all the way with him, instead of shutting down as I might normally in such a situation. Thanks very much yet again for all your advice, it gave me a lot of comfort and confidence and words to use to express things I didn't know how to. I may be reaching out to some of you in the near future.

After our big talk we went to a tennis match we'd had tickets to forever. It was strange but nice, we were able to laugh and joke and generally have a good time. I wish the match could have lasted forever, that we could have stayed there lost in one last peaceful moment.

The ride home was a bit rough, but we got there. We had our final hugs and cries and kisses, said our final I love yous, and I thanked him for all the good he's done me. And then he left, to R's couch for now, but I hope he'll find somewhere more stable to go in September, and spend some time alone to figure out what he needs. But that's not really my concern anymore I guess. He'll be back tomorrow when I'm out to pick up what he needs, and when he's somewhere more stable we'll get him the rest.

And now I'm alone in an apartment full of our things and our memories, and it's awful. Luckily, my parents couldn't be more supportive, even if they couldn't be farther away and still be in the same country, and I'll be heading out to see them in a month or two when my current work contract's up. I've got friends to talk to and hang out with, and though I can't believe this has all happened so fast, I know in the end it's for the best. I hope and I believe we can be great friends one day, although I don't know it.

Thanks again, I'm sure I'll be back with more questions as I go through this painful process.
posted by Ceci n'est pas un sockpuppet at 11:59 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Mercilessly = mercifully. Freudian slip? :)
posted by Ceci n'est pas un sockpuppet at 12:12 AM on August 15, 2010

Stay tough, surrealistically ironic non-sock-puppet. I'm living proof that ambiguously ended non-functional relationships can in time become functioning friendships. Good luck.
posted by nanojath at 10:21 PM on September 6, 2010

And, finally - ***hug***
posted by nanojath at 10:26 PM on September 6, 2010

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