"Let us fly!" said the flea / "Let us flee!" said the fly
December 24, 2010 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Yeah, I'm flightier than a hummingbird. Help me not to be?

I'm in the kind of relationship that many would call literally perfect, other than it being long-distance. We've been together for over a year and known each other off hand and as friends for way longer. First of all, he's attractive. I'm not going to lie to anyone by stating that doesn't matter. Then he's a great person unto himself. He's not needy, doesn't require me to complete or define him. He has healthy and cool hobbies, like martial arts, and is on the path into medical school so that he can treat patients suffering from PTSD. He loves animals, -rescues- them no less, such as baby birds and stray cats. He's building his own house slowly but surely in some lovely woods. He understands if I don't want kids, but he'd like me to keep it in mind that he's willing to try this life path with me. The sex is awesome, not just as sex but because we're both willing to learn, try new things, and communicate.

So...why do I feel like dropping him?

I know I'm a flighty person. I'm a flighty person. And when I say flighty, I mean that I've had an English and Graphic Design degree a few years apart, and am now in the military. I mean there's physical things, like dying my hair very different colors, or one day wearing a cowgirl hat and the next wearing bone earrings and a dog collar. And although I haven't yet decided completely on a tattoo design, I could see myself getting really into the ink community someday - which he's cautious about for me. I also mean that it's never been a very strong urge to have children, but last week I did weird research on cloth diapers and homemade baby food and determined that if I had kids I'd do -that-, but today I just as honestly don't want children. I've had jobs in a zoo, a pet store, a grocery store, a restaurant, and a dental office, and now more or less work with computers. And although I do love living in the country, I just as much enjoy living in the city, depending on the urban development. My dream idea of going to visit other countries would be to go -live- in this or that country for anywhere from a few weeks to a year, picking up odd jobs to keep the trip going. I -like- being relatively flighty, which could be part of the problem here.

Right now, due to the military, I especially don't feel like I could commit to a marriage, though we have talked about it and consider it not just a possiblity but a definite future. More a matter of when than if. But I......don't know if I want to anymore. Call me a indecisive bitch, but I'm just afraid that.......I'm going to be missing something if I do. Like I'm going to be trapped. And yes, we've talked about how he's very willing to travel and how he's cool with my flightiness but.......planning out something, whether it be to ditch a job and get a new one or travel halfway around the world to live there for a year is so much more complicated with two people.

I also feel like.......we're strained, and we don't know it yet? Because of my flightiness, even though he does make me very happy, every so many months, or less, I do this thing where I tell him I don't know if I can do this anymore. It's especially difficult with the distance, because I'm very out of sight out of mind, but even after a week n' a half with him, I get this urge to flee. And it ends up being all stressful, and he talks me down as if from a ledge and I end up crying and apologizing. He's said he doesn't know how much more of that he can take --- but hey there boy, we've got the rest of our lives ahead of us, and I don't know how much more it will crop up.
At one point I was having one of these....upsets, and unbeknownst to us my birth control was making me feel like an asexual amoeba but he said, "“I'm worried that our sexual appetites aren't matching up. I see that there are only so many possibilities if we marry. You accept that you might have to try harder to.....make me feel more appreciated or we end up with an open relationship where I go and find another woman to satisfy me. And I don't want that." But.....ugh, why would we consider marrying if we already have this problem?

Yeah, some of these things sound like I should just drop him right now, but it's so....difficult. There's no way to explain how much, in about 90% of every other facet, we are perfect for each other.

I just don't know if I can overcome this urge to just ___RUN___even though he makes me feel....not just safe, but right. He feels right in so many ways. I'm just afraid that one day I'm going to turn around while I'm pregnant and be like, "You know what? No. I don't want to give birth to this child, or if I have to, to take care of it" or to suddenly realize one day that I'm unhappy. This wouldn't be fair to him, to string him along, to the kid(s), or even to me.

Help? I need to clear my head and have talked with him about this to death, but I feel like it's not helping me. Gah! Does anyone else have this problem? And how do you....settle? Or do you?
posted by DisreputableDog to Human Relations (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think if you are 22 and worried about settling then don't settle. I say this as someone who was married at 20.

Also, I don't think you should worry so much about being flighty. Honestly, I felt that way until I was 26-27ish. The early twenties are hard and even though people act like and you feel like you should have it all together, "you are an adult now for crying out loud!" there is a certain amount of experimentation and trial that is normal and should even be expected. I know a lot of people who felt that way in their early twenties so honestly, I think you shouldn't feel bad for dropping this guy even if he is super nice.

Honestly, you could stay with him if that is what YOU really want to do. After I got married my husband I have spent several months apart, once I spent a month in Rome without him, and six weeks in Philadelphia. He spent a month in Guinea without me for example. Each time was hard and no we haven't ever been able to "move abroad" for a couple years. But it was our compromise to each other, we got married young so we had to give each other space. We've almost been married ten years so I guess it worked.
posted by aetg at 7:02 AM on December 24, 2010

I don't understand if you like to do a lot of different things, or if you don't know what you like to do.

You say "many" would call the relationship perfect - what would you call it? From what you've written, it doesn't sound all that great to me - it sounds like you effectively break up and make up every time you see each other. That's an awful lot of drama for a perfect relationship.

My tentative advice is to see if you can make this a non-exclusive thing. What I suspect would happen is that he will move on, but who knows?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:58 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I second that your relationship doesn't sound great. He pulled out the big guns of saying he might need to sleep with other women and you'd not even been dating a year? That's pretty harsh, and I probably would have bailed then and there. (Not saying that incompatible drives aren't something to consider, but that seems like a kinda peevish and huge overreach in such a short period of time, before you really even know each other well. If he can't handle you having an off month or two well... That's a bad sign. No matter how compatible you are, you're always going to have some degree of ups and downs in your desire because of stress, hormones, whatever.)

As for your flightiness -- early 20s are the time to be flighty. But yes, eventually you'll have to trade off some freedom for other benefits, like getting to know and invest in people and places over the long run. And the "freedom" not to commit to anything will seem less appealing. Most likely this will be an entirely natural process!
posted by yarly at 9:17 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Life made a lot more sense when I realized that "flighty" or "flaky" is often a code label used by guys (and ladies) who have been given the brush-off. In fact I would say most people labeled "flighty" really don't have it as an intrinsic personality trait at all. The word itself implies rejection and sort of has a faint tinge of guilt to it, so it's a perfect "blaming" word for people to latch onto when the real reason for the "flaking" is because they're pressuring, needy, or just not a good match. This was a lightbulb moment for me. From now on I take "flighty" with a huge grain of salt, especially if the person so labeled is A) The ex of the labeler B) The teenage/young-adult child of the labeler. See also, "crazy ex."

At 22 "flightiness" is completely normal and healthy. What would be strange is if you already had everything figured out at your age! Part of you sounds proud of your propensity to try new things and you should be. Pick a better word like "adventurous" or "versatile" to describe yourself IMO.

Another important life lesson is that no one is to blame in break-ups. The dumper is not a bad guy, in fact, they're the good guy for having the courage to end things. Similarly, you never need a reason to break up. "I didn't feel like it anymore" is perfectly fine, and is really the underlying reason why people break up anyway. There doesn't have to be a cost-benefit analysis. Anyone who makes you feel guilty for breaking up with them, IE "abanonding them" has issues and is immature and inexperienced in relationships. Everyone is responsible for themselves in this life.
posted by Nixy at 9:22 AM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Every guy I've dated was really great in a lot of ways. And being a relationship person, I dated them seriously, for years, and started young (around 16).

But I was always aware that I wasn't ready to get married, and I left a couple of perfectly marriage worthy people because I needed time to live my life on my terms.

If you aren't ready to commit, do not commit. Do it for him as much as for you. You will make him absolutely miserable if you stay and are not fully invested in the relationship. Be aware that this is a hard road to take at times. Meeting people gets harder as you get older. I'm 27 and single after turning down a couple of marriage proposals before 22. Dating can be a real shit show and sometimes when I'm lonely and down in the dumps I wish I had made a different decision. Those moments are fleeting though.

I like to think that I will be ready to commit fully when the time comes. That when they ask it will feel like YES! A thousand times yes. Maybe you should wait for that feeling too.
posted by amycup at 10:20 AM on December 24, 2010

He's really looking like someone who doesn't respect the decisions you make.neither do you. You don't sound uniquely flighty just like you aren't into him. After a week and a half you want to escape? Long distance is concealing basic compatibility issues.

Joining the military is not a flighty commitment phobic move. It's not you.

The way he broached an open relationship, while you were upset and as an entitlement should you behave improperly, is really uncool. I say this as a happy non-monogamist. Comes across like he's blackmailing you for sex.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:39 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

The concern over future tattoos bothers me as well. You're perfectly capable of making adult decisions, including the decision to get a tattoo or leave him. He doesn't need to supervise you.

Commitment is great when it's a rock that provides a stable home to return to, not a rock that keeps you from exploring the world because it's chained to your leg.

If you're not capable of making adult decisions then it would be unethical for him to date/sleep with you.

Finishing two degrees shows follow-through. If you left 3 different schools after a semester I'd say maybe youre flaky.

I don't see how his varied interests are a good thing but yours are a personality flaw.

From personal experience I had no fear of marrying at 21. I am now 25, have gone through many jobs and wardrobe changes and have gotten nothing but support. I do sometimes feel stifled because I invent restrictions that don't exist once I talk to my partner who is happy for me to do whatever as long as I am considerate. I say this not to brag but to demonstrate that you don't have to have the feeling of needing to escape just because you're married. It's specific to the relationship.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:19 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I suspect the reason you feel like dropping him is because you have a much sharper instinct than you're giving yourself credit for.

If he's starting with ultimatums that make you uncomfortable one year into the relationship, what will he be asking for in five years? Or ten?

You're only 22! And there are lots and lots and lots of fascinating people out there.
posted by bunji at 11:25 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

bunji is right.

22 is young. It may not feel like it, but you probably don't even know yourself yet.

Any doubts you have should be trusted.

Some people like the military life, but it will entail (probably) a lot of moving around, and if he's overseas that will complicate things even more.

Look at it this way: you might be doing him a favor, too, by not starting something that you can't see through.
posted by rougy at 11:57 AM on December 24, 2010

You are merely another of his 'animal rescues'.

Not a suitable basis for a relationship on either side, I'd think.
posted by jamjam at 2:52 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

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