I think we are breaking up. I don't know what to do to survive the next few days.
January 26, 2011 11:10 PM   Subscribe

I think we are breaking up. I don't know what to do to survive the next few days.

I can't sleep and feel like I am going to vomit. I am (?) in a long term relationship with someone with whom I live and I am paralyzed. All of my decisions for the past two years have been based on some romantic notion of happily-ever-after...turning down going to colleges (to which I had been accepted) that were too far away, etc.

I'm sorry I'm not very coherent right now.

I'm just terrified because this can't be happening. I've had a broken heart before but this is different because of some complicating factors. This time I don't have hope for future love because (and I fear revealing our "prudish" habits at a place like MetaFilter will cause some raised eyebrows, but please be kind) of how committed we were to each other in a way that we both wanted. We both wanted only one another sexually...no porn, no flirting, not even looking. We both felt hurt by the other doing so and were both so so happy to just have the other. I was fulfilled in every way. That part worked. But other parts didn't...less important parts, but parts nonetheless.

I can deal with being single my whole life because I do not believe there is a single man out there that is like him (not saying it is better morally, etc. but it is most definitely better for me.) I'm sure it is partly based in insecurity but also it is perhaps a preference...and a rare one. Some people are poly to an extreme, I am monogamous to an extreme, so that's that.

So basically after my ridiculous rambling, my question is, how do I get through the next few days that I am still living in the same house as he is, doubting every moment of the breakup, loving him still, wanting to run back into his arms but knowing that I shouldn't...but not really knowing that I shouldn't?
posted by DeltaForce to Human Relations (42 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
First, cut the melodramatic "I'm going to be alone forever" crap. You love your SO, you are breaking up, it's painful, I get it, I've been there. But this idea that the relationship is so special that you'll never have another relationship is just silliness. Now to answer your question- stay with a friend if possible.hang out with friends as much as possible. If not possible, keep yourself busy. Every moment should be spent accomplishing something. for god sake's don't sit home alone.
posted by bananafish at 11:22 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry you are going through this--I know it can be shattering. I can't speak to your whole post, but in terms of surviving the next few days, I think the best thing you can do is run into the arms of the other people who love you. Friends? Family? Go find someone who won't care if you get snot on their shoulder and make that your home base for a while. It's surprising how people step up for you when you need them.

Best wishes.
posted by chatongriffes at 11:23 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To be clear, I'm not doubting that I'll ever have another relationship. I just don't want one where I have to deal with what most people consider the norm. No I am not a self-hating religious person, this isn't about morality. It is a preference that, after talking to enough men and reading enough MetaFilter, is not shared by many.
posted by DeltaForce at 11:27 PM on January 26, 2011

I can't imagine anything more heart wrenching than sharing your living space with your partner mid-split. Don't be alone right now - seek friends, family, a change of scenery while you sort out your feelings and what happens next. Each day, just worry about today. There is no pressure to decide what your life will be long term just yet. Focus on establishing an independent place to live and start living inside your own head again.

But for the first few days, do whatever feels best - distractions, no distractions, bury yourself in work, cry your heart out to a loved one... That's how you get through the first few days when the shock makes it hard to do anything else. Just be around people who care, and who will help guide you to the other side of this.
posted by SakuraK at 11:32 PM on January 26, 2011

I can deal with being single my whole life because I do not believe there is a single man out there that is like him

Statistically, that's a crock of shit.

You're a committed monogamist? Good for you! However, there's nothing in that contract that says you can never love anybody ever again. Long-term relationships sometimes end, people break up, and sometimes people even die. However, as a whole, most folks seem to be able to move on, and eventually form new relationships. You're probably going to need some time off from dating, but I'm sure you'll recover in the end, and will be able to use this relationship as a learning experience for future relationships. Now you have a better idea of what you want, and what you don't want. (Yeah, I know it sucks to objectify people, but if at some point down the road, a new BF starts initiating the sorts of behaviors that led this current relationship to fail, you'll be able to DTMFA before you're seriously emotionally committed to him. You do nobody any favors by choosing to stay in a relationship where one of your recognizes a fundamental incompatibility.)

Your situation is also not remotely as rare as you expect. I'd wager a guess, and say that most people experience some variation of what you're going through at some point in their lives. Committed serial monogamists* exist all over the place. You just don't notice it, because they're spending all their time with each other. Also, Metafilter isn't exactly a representative sample of the general population, and even though many (but certainly not most, or even all) of us speak in poly-positive or poly-tolerant tones, I'd suspect that the vast majority of MeFites are primarily monogamists.

Relax. You'll pull through. You're definitely not alone.

*Christ, that's a scary sounding term for a rather positive thing...
posted by schmod at 11:39 PM on January 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

We both wanted only one another sexually...no porn, no flirting, not even looking.

If I'm reading you correctly, what's bothering you is the idea that you'll never find this again?

Despite what the internet, American pop culture, and various armchair psychologists and sociologists would have you believe, not everyone is "cool" with all those things, and not everyone considers watching porn and flirting outside your relationship to be the norm. I feel really bad that you felt you had to apologize to us for the way you feel about those things and worried that we would consider you to be a prude.

I just don't want one where I have to deal with what most people consider the norm.

Believe me: you absolutely don't have to. Just don't waste any time continuing with a guy when you realize his attitudes don't mesh with yours. That, I think, is what really leads to feeling like your'e all alone in the world with your preferences. Don't engage in any debates with guys (or anyone else) as to what's normal or what you should accept or how you should feel. Just let them have their preferences and you have yours, and move on. I have every confidence that you'll find what you're looking for.
posted by Ashley801 at 11:39 PM on January 26, 2011 [27 favorites]

First, I'm sorry you're experiencing this. I know it hurts.

Secondly - I went through this pretty much *exactly*. Almost every detail you mentioned. And in those days, I probably said everything you just said here, and everybody else said to me what I'm going to say to you.

You are not going to be alone for the rest of your life. There is someone better. The fact that this relationship is ending just proves that it was not the partnership you thought it was. There are millions of people all over the world who have all gone through this, are going through it, or will go through it soon. Every breakup song you hear on the radio that makes you feel like the artist knows exactly how you feel? It's because they do. We all do.

Everything you're feeling right now is just that. Right now. With time, this will not hurt so much, and you'll realize your life wasn't over after all. I know you don't believe that's true, and you think nobody, least of all MetaFilter, could possibly understand, but it is true. Just wait it out.

As for the next few days, get out of the house as much as you can. Hang out with friends. Go volunteer. Go... mall walk. Something! Just don't sit at home crying or trying to reason with him or talking yourself out of something - I don't know what your situation is. It's going to be uncomfortable and awkward, but it's only a few days.

And I really, really don't recommend trying to stay friends in your situation if you've thought of that. You need time apart.
posted by katillathehun at 11:39 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just don't want one where I have to deal with what most people consider the norm.

Monogamy is still considered the norm in most places. You're not going to find yourself thrown into a world of polyamory all of a sudden if that's what you're afraid of.
posted by katillathehun at 11:42 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just expect pain. Expect everything to be incredibly painful and agonizing, and just get through it the way you get through all other pain in your life.

Ever had a really intense migraine? Or slammed your finger in the car door? Or gotten bruised in a car accident? Or cracked your head on the upper bunk? Or had every muscle so sore that it hurt to move? Your life is going to be pain right now. It totally sucks, but it doesn't mean that what you're doing is wrong. A lot of things -- like getting an operation or getting a cavity fixed -- can really hurt a lot, but are the right thing to do. Just... expect it all to really hurt, and don't try to run away from that, just hang in there and get through it.
posted by salvia at 12:01 AM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Girl, if your profile is accurate, you're twenty years old.

If that is true, you will have many more relationships, many more loves, and yes, even many more blissfully monogamous ones, if that's what you're after. There's no shortage of any type of person on this earth. If you know what you want, you will find it eventually. Relax.

Two days into a breakup, everyone feels like you feel right now: the upset stomach, the panic, the rationalizations, the dizziness, the I-will-be-alone-forever! nonsense. It's completely and totally normal, and it always, always, always passes.

Breathe deeply. Relax. Force yourself to eat a little. Sleep as much as you want. Don't make any rash decisions, and let time do that thing it always does.

A month from now you are going to feel a whole lot better.
posted by rokusan at 12:02 AM on January 27, 2011 [30 favorites]

Strange you should focus on just this point of sexuality in the break-up with someone you love so much. But we don't have your background. Suffice to say: Polyamory isn't the norm.
posted by londongeezer at 12:03 AM on January 27, 2011

First thing first: breathe. Spend time with friends and family to get out of the house and away form the situation. You need to work out an exit so that you're not stuck in the house moping around.

There will be other people who make you swoon and question why you ever believed that this guy was the one. You just have to give it time and let yourself heal. Life goes on and so will you. Good luck!
posted by arcticseal at 12:03 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you are still awake, take a super hot shower, drink some warm milk, do some easy stretches, turn the TV on to something random, and think about something as far from this topic as possible. Tomorrow, call a friend and ask if you can use their couch for a couple of days. That's about it. If you can do those simple, practical things to move forward, then sure, you'll probably have some tearful episodes over the next few days, but they'll pass pretty quickly into new routines.

These other ideas you have right now about what you're losing don't sound right to me or anyone else in this thread so far, but what I get from it is you'll always care about this guy, and that's cool. You're also going to be proud that you made a decision to move on in spite of those feelings and got the chance to meet someone else. And I've looked at some of your other posts, and I really, really think it's not going to be so hard to find someone else who meets your needs much better. ;)
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:15 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

it is absolutely normal to feel destroyed right about now. grab a pint of haagen dasz and enjoy a week or reruns. if you didn't feel bad now it wouldn't have been all that great to begin with. take your time to heal.

but then you need to pick yourself up and get that smile back on your face. it's easy to stay down and mope around. it also leads absolutely nowhere.
posted by krautland at 12:32 AM on January 27, 2011

Monogamy is still considered the norm in most places. You're not going to find yourself thrown into a world of polyamory all of a sudden if that's what you're afraid of.
I don't think that's all she means.
Many people are in monogamous relationships, but don't make a big deal about porn, flirting, etc. Like:
: female friend sitting on couch, he sits on the floor between her legs, and lets her massage his hair and hug him.
: hugs tight and picks up/twirls in the air his female friend, as he does with his girlfriend.
: suggestive computer wallpapers.
: opening the car door for another woman, funny enough, cough, only for attractive women.

To me those are unacceptable, and I suspect the OP feels the same. But other monogamous couples call me prudish if I talk about things like that bothering me.

So I understand how the OP feels, that it would be difficult to find another person who thinks similarly. I don't think it makes her insecure at all.

But anyway, to help you out: stay in a different room. Eat meals separately. Watch upbeat movies, and TV shows, even if you usually don't. Force yourself to talk, or at-least listen to other people so that you're distracted.

Now, if you've made sacrifices to be with him, I image you'd be kind of alone. Made him a priority over friends and family, for example.
So will you need things to distract you from him?
DepressionHaven chat
SecondLife - Go listen to karaoke, listen to jazz or blues, explore art galleries, go to discussion events and just listen or talk if you want to. Go to poem readings or book clubs, or whatever you might like.
Radio: I like to play the 24 hour NPR stream whenever I'm starting to think sad things.
Watch silly TV stuff. My favorite now: Highkick, it's really slow and wacky at first, but it gets really funny. It does have a break up at first... but it will be so funny I doubt you'll cry.

Hmm good luck, been there done that. :-/ So I know you'll be fine :)
posted by midnightmoonlight at 12:39 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

The fear of never loving again and the reality of vulnerabilities is a difficult emotional icing to a cake that you don't want to swallow. Love is the strangest part of my life, too. It's can sometimes feel as though it was entirely a fantasy: said to me passively: "I love you, you know." other times, it is said with conviction I cannot return. Most recently, we agreed we didn't know if we were in love and that was OK.

The thing with us humans is that love is always right around the corner. We love to reinforce love to make sure it hasn't gone anywhere. It leads to a huge trepidation. Doubt builds. People go to extraordinary lengths (binges, melodrama, using their Questions) to get the answer for why love has disappeared or momentarily left the building. I dealt with it once by getting rid of my computer and orchestrating my life entirely on my Blackberry. It was a terribly stupid thing to do, especially when I left my job and had to write cover letters on a Blackberry in an unfurnished apartment in a city I didn't know.

I won't do that again. These days, I use a lot of meditation and a lot of pushing harmful memories to the side of my brain that has no use for them, so they won't be revealed when my feelings turn wistful on the bus home from work. It takes a lot of practice to be mindful - meaning to focus your mind on the sensations of the body rather than the sensations of the mind - and it can feel at times like a waste of time.

I sometimes worry the way I love will never change. Then I remember I have gotten so far that I'm beginning the literary review for my thesis in two weeks. I don't love grad school, but I love that after six years of trying to finish my degree I finally am. Go to college. You got in, you can apply again. I imagine you'll endear us with another missive about your 'amazing' younger, sophomore-year lover in about nine months.

Until then, don't mess things up even more giving this putz any more of your time. You can start learning mindfulness now. Just close your eyes and focus on the sensations between the top of your nose and the top of your lower lip and try not to do anything about them.
posted by parmanparman at 1:45 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I can deal with being single my whole life because I do not believe there is a single man out there that is like him

Sorry, if you are breaking up with your current SO, won't finding someone similar or even exactly the same would lead to the same breaking up conditions?

Be glad that everyone out there is unique - change is the only constant in life, accept it and move on.
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:49 AM on January 27, 2011 [9 favorites]

I'm 42. I'm single. I've had my heart broken in ways you can't even imagine. (Are your ribs broken? Your nose? Your wrist, while struggling to hold onto your child? Nope? Your heart hurts but it can heal without scars. Be thankful you have the ability to get out now.).

Darlin', this will pass. Trust me. Seek solace with friends, family, weepy movies, whatever you want to do.

But get out of the house. I endured an entire pregnancy living in a house with the father of my kids, even though we'd agreed to separate (okay, so I told him he was a drug-fucked loser and had to move out but I couldn't afford to).

Look after yourself. You will be swamped with pain for a few days... but then you'll start to appreciate the times you are painless. Wallow in the pain when it hits. Let it in, cry if you want to. Then you'll start to heal.

And always remember that he doesn't deserve you. You deserve better than him.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:52 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I can deal with being single my whole life because I do not believe there is a single man out there that is like him

Our minds play the weirdest tricks on us at the end of relationships. Telling us that we'll never again find anyone even half as awesome as that last person is one of the commonest. The precise combination of things you think are now Lost Forever will be different for everyone, of course, but I'm willing to bet almost everyone here has gone through the exact same "I'll never, ever find anyone out there like that again!" process that you're going through now. Yeah, you think it's a rational thing to think in your case - so did all of us. And we're fine and happy now, and so will you be.

So for right now, just put that out of your mind. Any time your brain starts drifting off down the 'and now to embrace my ETERNAL SINGLEDOM!' path, just tell it "Look, I am not even remotely in a place where I can think rationally about this now; I'll revisit it in the future." I mean, you're nowhere near ready for a new relationship right now, are you? No, of course you're not. So why give yourself something else to worry about?

For now, just concentrate on hunkering down and getting through the next short little while. Make sure you're eating three meals a day, even if you can't eat everything on your plate. Find something, some hobby you already like, or some incredibly addictive computer game, or anything, that will give you some intense distraction. And get out of the house, as soon and as often as you can. Got friends nearby? Family? Anyone within travelling distance? Call them up, explain the situation, and go and stay with them. You don't need to struggle through this on your own.

You'll be okay.
posted by Catseye at 2:35 AM on January 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

I was fulfilled in every way. That part worked. But other parts didn't...less important parts, but parts nonetheless.

You're pretty focused on the sexual aspect of your relationship but those "less important parts" might be more relevant to your breakup (which you aren't even sure is happening? maybe communication is an issue too?) than the relative monogamy practiced by people you may meet someday.
posted by headnsouth at 3:01 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Why exactly are you breaking up? Is it your decision? You really can't keep living there; you're going to need to get out as soon as you can. Stay with family or friends for a while until you can get our own place. If he's the one who's initiating the breakup, make him do this instead.

Also, there are a lot of dudes out there who are interested in monogamy--even monogamy of the "extreme" sort that you describe. However, I'd suggest thinking hard about your disapproval of porn, innocent looking at others, etc. It's natural to be attracted to more than one person at a time. This shouldn't necessarily be threatening. There are scads of people out there who are perfectly content to commit to a single partner emotionally and sexually who still like to masturbate once in a while. I don't want to come off as too judgmental of your preference here but I wonder whether it might reflect some deeper problems that affect and will continue to affect the quality of your relationships.
posted by ashotinthearm at 5:03 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

We both wanted only one another sexually...no porn, no flirting, not even looking.

Either you believe this, in which case your expectations for a partner are wildly unrealistic, or he convinced you he was down with this, in which case he was being wildly unrealistic. With such a controlling attitude about his (or each other's) sexuality, no wonder you're breaking up. That sounds like a stifling fantasy version of monogamy, not the real thing. No one can go without "looking" at other people with sexual interest -- not even you -- and I doubt anyone can go without flirting. And although I think it's weird to lump porn in with that list, not too many men never look at it, and when they do it's generally not a sexual rejection of their committed partner to do so, just male sexual biology.

You don't say your age, although you sound young and that can explain the melodrama here, but if I was seriously involved with someone who seriously expected me never even to think about other women sexually and was "hurt" to discover that I checked someone else out or flirted innocently with a stranger, I'd run for the damn hills. Check your own shit and see if it stinks a little.

So maybe if you lower your unrealistic expectations your next relationship will be better. Humans, I have to report, are not naturally monogamous creatures.
posted by spitbull at 5:11 AM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Having been in your shoes, I had to live with my (ex)husband for a month after he told me we were done. My advice is very simple, and it doesn't matter which end of the breakup you're on. This does, of course, assume you're the one who's moving out.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, GET OUT. Stay at a shelter if you have to. GET. OUT. It doesn't matter if it was the most friendly breakup in the history of breakups, GET. OUT. Put your stuff in a storage unit, stay in a shelter, GET OUT. I am so not kidding. Sticking around that house was the worst thing I ever did.

Your relationship's gone south. Everything you do, everything he does, will remind each other (and yourselves) of the relationship you had. Being in that house made me sick, staying in that room made me scared, and sleeping in that bed gave me horrific nightmares. Looking back, I would have been so much better off if I had left earlier. I wasn't in a state of mind at the time where I could even remember to eat, let alone think 'maybe I should get out'. I wish now someone had been there to tell me what a good idea it would've been.
posted by Heretical at 5:22 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, that awful "nobody is exactly like him!" dread. I hear you. I was wailing about it once to a dear friend who finally lost her (otherwise unflappable) patience and said, "Well, I'm sure he's great and all and I get that you love all these things about him but it didn't exactly make everything end up perfect, did it?"

Of course nobody is exactly like your SO. But the things you may love and admire in your partner and which may be, for you, non-negotiables -- values, principles, a quirky take on life -- these absolutely do exist in many other people. These other people may not also love baking blueberry muffins in their underwear on a Saturday morning or whatever little idiosyncratic habits you had together with your SO, but therein lies the joy of making new connections. You can find somebody with the core values that are important to you, but you'll also get to, one day, love all of the silly little habits of somebody new, and through your connection with him and the things you will love doing together you'll discover some new side of your own self, and you'll realize that you didn't actually know yourself quite as completely as you thought you did at age 20, or at least, you weren't done becoming you. (And may you never be done with that!)

You're miserable now. You will be for a while. But you'll love again harder than you thought possible and you'll keep surprising yourself. Hang in there.
posted by oneaday at 5:50 AM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Hey, I already replied above, but just wanted to add one thing that occurred to me.

Get this book from the library: "Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught.
I know it sounds like a place you'd go on a sex rampage at, but it's not. It's just about learning sexuality, and what your values are and why.

I had to read it for a university class, and it helped me with some of the... hmm... things that you mentioned.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 6:21 AM on January 27, 2011

This is what friends' couches are made for.

There's no way to say this without sounding condescending, though I truly don't mean it that way: You're 20. You are going to change so radically in the next five years that you'll hardly believe it, and by the time you're 30, your 20-year-old self will seem familiar....sort of. Like a cousin you only see once a year. Every single person here has gone through this; it is horrible and it sucks and it's so painful it's hard to breathe, but you will get through it.

If you don't feel like eating, eat something anyway, even if it's just some cookies and tea (carbs and sweets are good for when you're feeling panicky). Do your best to derail the "But I'll never find anyone like him again!" train of thought because it's pointless and destructive. Watch some bad TV, take a walk, cook something elaborate that takes a lot of prep and concentration, play an absorbing game, throw yourself into writing code - whatever distracting thing you do, do that. And cry. It's fine to cry.

At some point, you'll meet someone who's awesome for the person you will have become. You won't believe me right now. That's okay. It's still true.

Good luck. I'm sorry you're going through this; I know how hard it is.
posted by rtha at 6:25 AM on January 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Other people have given you some good advice - here's some math that may be comforting.

Let's say the thing you want in a relationship is as rare as you think it is (I don't actually think it is, but let's just say for now). How rare? How about 1%? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that 1% of people feel the way you do about relationships. There are 6,896,171,227 people in the world, and 311,963,254 in the U.S.
1% of that U.S. number is still 3 million people. Let's cut it in half so that only guys are left. 1,559,816.

So, even if you're right that the percentage of people who share your relationship preferences is tiny, you're still left with a pretty big population. The fact is, there are just so many people in the world that a statement that starts out with "I'll never find someone who" is almost always wrong.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:12 AM on January 27, 2011

Girl, if your profile is accurate, you're twenty years old.

Seconding this.

Not to downplay what you are going through, but your life hasn't even started yet. A lot of people your age have never even had a serious relationship. Hell, when I was your age, I had never had a relationship full stop.

You need to get your own place and get out and meet more people. You're going to be fine.
posted by empath at 7:29 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can deal with being single my whole life because I do not believe there is a single man out there that is like him (not saying it is better morally, etc. but it is most definitely better for me.) I'm sure it is partly based in insecurity but also it is perhaps a preference...and a rare one. Some people are poly to an extreme, I am monogamous to an extreme, so that's that.

It's objectively true that having preferences for somewhat rare traits in a partner limits your pool of potential partners, but really this is the same for everyone. Yes, most people fall somewhere in between the monogamous-polyamorous rather than at the extremes, but that's just one trait. Someone who doesn't care about porn and flirting may have a lot stronger requirements about what books a potential partner reads or how what kind of career they have or a million other factors. Very few people can look at a 100 random potential partners and say "Yes, I could have a fulfilling and happy long-term relationship with any of these people." The fact that your dealbreaker is about monogamy isn't any different than any of the other reasons why any one person wouldn't be able to date a very large percentage of the population.

So, take some time now to get your head straight and feel okay not being in a relationship. But once you are ready to meet someone new, go online or do whatever you do to meet people being aware of your preferences, and find someone who is right for you. Because really that is what everyone does.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:54 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Stay with someone else right now. I don't care where, I don't care what you do there, just impose some actual distance and separation so you can begin to relate to yourself purely as an individual. Only then can you truly begin to heal.
posted by hermitosis at 8:14 AM on January 27, 2011

We both wanted only one another sexually...no porn, no flirting, not even looking. We both felt hurt by the other doing so

Seems to me you were and still are being very unrealistic about the relationship. If you both only wanted each other, only, forever, how would you ever be hurt by the other looking, since you've just said that he didn't? I think you had a rosy view of the relationship.

Also, 20-years old, for god's sake. You're barely even an adult. Everything that you think today will change, and more than once.
posted by splice at 8:25 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

This time I don't have hope for future love because (and I fear revealing our "prudish" habits at a place like MetaFilter will cause some raised eyebrows, but please be kind) of how committed we were to each other in a way that we both wanted. We both wanted only one another sexually...no porn, no flirting, not even looking... I can deal with being single my whole life because I do not believe there is a single man out there that is like him (not saying it is better morally, etc. but it is most definitely better for me.)

I understand a lot of how you feel - my marriage is something like this (not quite so black-and-white, but I'm not 20 anymore, either, heh). So as a data point, it's out there, but I too feel it's relatively rare. Certainly I've worried about if I would ever find something like this again, if I lost my husband. Also, I should add we didn't feel this way about anyone else before we met each other - so it may not be worth making a dealbreaker, but rather something that evolves from lots of discussion and deepening feelings. I rather think many people are willing to accept the models society provides for us without thinking too deeply about it - and the younger you are, the less time you've had to be exposed to other points of view. I'm definitely not the same person now that I was when I was 20, and I thought very differently about these types of things back then... my husband as well. (Both of us were very upfront when we met that we might be together, but looking was totally okay - because "what does looking hurt? it's just human nature to look!" - so it was quite unexpected when we came to the realization that neither of us were looking anymore.)

Anyway, now that I know how it feels to be with someone who I feel this way for and who feels this way about me, I know I wouldn't be happy with anything else, and also that it's not right for me to give up on something that is this important to me - no matter what most of society, or Metafilter, or whoever, thinks about it. It's not worth my time to spend it in a relationship that doesn't fit me.

So you know this now too, about yourself. This is good! Your relationship has taught you something very valuable... and it is sad to lose something that feels so right in this way, but it doesn't feel right in other important ways, and it has to work on all those levels to be sustainable - you know that! The next few days will be hard, and it's best to distract yourself as much as possible and keep your distance from him so you don't try to go back on what you've already decided. You can't be friends right now. You should move out as soon as you can. Make lists, make plans, keep yourself moving.

But don't get in the emotional trap of "I will never, ever find someone else that provides this for me". There are so many people out there in the world; you are so young; I can assure you it's out there, even if you have to look a little harder. Everyone's got something important they want/need from a relationship - I think burnmp3s said it very well, above. Learn from this, and move on; each experience you gain will help you grow, and help you find what you want.
posted by flex at 8:35 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

We both wanted only one another sexually...no porn, no flirting, not even looking. We both felt hurt by the other doing so

These two statements cannot reconcile. I suspect that you are having panicked rosy thoughts about the end of your relationship, but I assure you -- he is not the only guy out there, nor is he the last guy you will have these amazing feelings for. In fact -- I guaratee that someday, there will be someone who makes you EVEN HAPPIER.

In terms of your specific questions about surviving the next few days:
- go stay with a friend or family member. Get out of your apartment and take some space for yourself.
- don't get sucked into long, painful "why it ended" conversations. They're pointless and soul-destroying. You can talk again in a week or two, if you need to, but right now, protect your sanity.
- eat enough food (whatever tastes good), get enough sleep, try to instill some normalcy in your life by showering and getting dressed on a daily basis. If "eat breakfast, get dressed" are the only goals you have for the day, those are totally valid and excellent goals and you should commend yourself for achieving them.
- stop thinking about the future as much as possible. Don't worry about getting back together or ever finding someone else. Those are problems for Future DeltaForce to worry about. Today's DeltaForce needs to put some pants on and eat a sandwich. That's it.
- busy your mind in whatever way is most distracting. Work out to exhaustion if that helps. Go to work and be the most productive person you've ever been. Organize your iTunes library. Try to keep your mind as engaged and present as possible.

In a few weeks, look at the books How to Survive the Loss of a Love and When Things Fall Apart.

Good luck.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:00 AM on January 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

- stop thinking about the future as much as possible. Don't worry about getting back together or ever finding someone else. Those are problems for Future DeltaForce to worry about. Today's DeltaForce needs to put some pants on and eat a sandwich. That's it.

Quoted for emphasis. Getting caught in the what-if spiral or the maybe-he'll change-his-mind-if-I-just-do-[thing] spiral is utterly pointless and will only make things harder. If you find yourself starting to do that, make like the stereotype of a kid with ADD and GO RIDE BIKES.
posted by rtha at 9:36 AM on January 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I just don't want one where I have to deal with what most people consider the norm.

Just about no one things their relationship is "the norm". Right now you're caught up in big questions about life and the future. These are difficult things to think about when you're established and have some life experiences. At 20, you literally don't know what you're talking about. This concern about the rest of your life can't be resolved because you're working from a lot of faulty assumptions (first and foremost, that you know what you'll want in 5 or 10 years, or that your picture of your current relationship is accurate). So stop thinking about the future.

Just focus on what you need to do now. If you're in school, focus on your schoolwork. Work out. Read a book. Pick up an extra shift at work. Just get out of the house as much as possible and keep yourself busy.

Also, I'd advise you to stop being coy about the "rare preference" you have. It's something you've got yourself really wrapped up over, but it's pretty unlikely that it is as important to the happiness of your future relationships as you think. I'm not trying to be cruel, but it sounds a lot like what most young lovers do; engage in childish talk about how "special" their love is. (People continue to do this during the early parts of their relationships as they get older, but it levels off sooner.)

Young people set a lot of "rules" for themselves; and it's not just small-c conservative kids who do it. These rules are important because they help establish your adult identity. Most people find that these rules become less important, or even in the way, as they grow into themselves.
posted by spaltavian at 10:15 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The end of one's first long relationship is a rich learning experience that will continue to teach lessons for years. People are better off for the destruction of their first soft-focus pastel dreams about partnering. It's almost a rite of passage, like working a crappy minimum wage job. Welcome to the threshhold of adulthood. It's true that you'll never have an experience quite like your first love, but you may look back and see the flaws of your younger self starkly exposed. You may learn a lot by questioning the principles you hold dear, which up until now you have comfortably accepted unchallenged. This is how you get to be a wiser, stronger, more compassionate version of yourself.

I almost feel sorry for people who don't experience it. When you get some pain later on in life, when something dies, you will remember this, and you will be better off because you will already know something about mourning. You can help others transition through it. Best of luck to you. Read some Rumi, or Hafiz.
posted by griselda at 10:22 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

As a data point, I can tell you that there are many men out there who when in love are completely uninterested in other women and are not that into porn. It's really not that unusual, based on my experiences. The idea that he will never even look or be attracted to another -well, that probably is unrealistic. But I promise, promise, promise you that there are tons of great guys out there who will never give you objective reason to feel insecure or hurt. (it is up to you to figure out if you're over sensitive in his regard, though.)
posted by yarly at 12:13 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You'd be surprised how many people share your preference for a loving, monogamous, respectful, committed relationship. I find it hard to believe, for example, that so many men are into porn that those who dislike it or find it boring are supposed to be freakishly abnormal.

The part that bothered me most about your post was where you said that you'd turned down certain colleges that had accepted you because they'd be too far away. It suggests to me that you allowed this relationship to take precedence over your own ability to be self-determining and independent, which is something you need to be doing right now. I don't mean to say that you're too young to be in this kind of relationship--I met my husband of nearly twenty years my sophomore year of college--but it sounds as though you've never really been alone, and this is a time when you need to learn to be on your own, at least for a little while.

I have a pretty good idea what's going on with you emotionally right now, and it's difficult. Hurts to breathe, doesn't it? I'm terribly sorry. But it will pass.

This might be hard to contemplate right now, but it's worth the effort: when I've had to leave a situation and there's some pain involved in separating and/or saying goodbye, it really helps if, instead of dwelling on the things I will miss, I start looking forward to my brand-spanking new, shiny-clean future.

In your case, you sound as if you might have allowed his needs and interests to come before yours. And now you have a whole lot of freedom to look forward to--freedom to decide what to do with your life, freedom to decide how you're going to spend an evening or a weekend, freedom to do things that you might not have done because you were concerned about your boyfriend's opinion, freedom to be all the things you might not have been because you were being his girlfriend. (I'm assuming you're female; many apologies if you're not.) I'm looking back from forty, and I can't begin to tell you how much life you have ahead of you. Don't waste that freedom.

And when you're ready for another relationship, there will be good, kind, intelligent, sexy, serious men out there for you, men who will want the same things you want and won't want anyone but you, who will want to grow old with you. You'll find them. Trust me. I found mine.
posted by tully_monster at 12:30 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Breakups suck, but you will survive.

I ended a 5 year relationship (LTR) when I was 20.
It hurt a lot, as I really thought we were destined to be one of those high school sweetheart couples who lived happily ever after.

I had a lover at the tail end of the LTR. We knew a long term relationship wasn't in the cards, but we enjoyed each other's company (in and out of bed). A month or two post LTR breakup, the lover fell in love with another woman and ended things with me. That hurt, but at the same time, I wanted my lover to be happy, because he was also my friend.

Six months after the LTR ended, I found my soulmate on AOL. I wasn't looking, nor did I really want another LTR again so soon, but there he was--leaps and bounds better than the LTR ever was. I moved in with him 9 months later. That was 14 years ago, and we've been married almost 11 years.

The lover and I are still friends. He ended up marrying the woman he left me for. They've been married 12.5 years.

tl;dr-- You never know what the future holds. You may find someone much better for you than you ever imagined. Hang in there. You've gotten a lot of good advice here.
posted by luckynerd at 1:30 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for taking the time to answer so compassionately. Your words are greatly appreciated. I am doing my best to process all of your advice during this difficult time.
posted by DeltaForce at 6:17 PM on January 27, 2011

It is a preference that, after talking to enough men and reading enough MetaFilter, is not shared by many.

You should seek out some papers by Wendy Holmann. People get married for years, decades. I think monogamy is very much the norm for many people, divorce rate or no. Many see what you think as 'prudish' as quite normal.

At your age I felt as you did about porn - I found it distasteful, and what I saw felt very seedy and misogynistic to me. I found the idea of partners using it a real turn-off. Since then, I;ve learned more about it, and while I still don't use it myself I know that many people do and it's perfectly fine and dandy - in fact, there are so many types of porn out there that my teen ideas that it meant that a man was not really into me vaporised. I'm not saying that you should get into porn, or flirting - there's nothing wrong with not liking eithe r of these things - but think about what it is you don't like about them.

I changed my ideas about a lot of things in my early 20s, as I got more experience in life and sex and got to know myself better, and you will probably be the same. You may look back one day and realise that this, right now, is one of the best things that ever happened to you.
posted by mippy at 9:38 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went through a similar breakup as you describe once. When it was over I thought I would need years to get myself together enough to be able to love someone again. I met my next girlfriend 3 months later.

I also gave up future plans to save that doomed relationship. The fact that I didn't resume my plans right after the relationship soured the next one after that. So from my experience, my recommendation to you is that you get back on course with your life, resume following your dreams asap.

I've found that my idea of some girl being "the one" was toxic. Lots of people are awesome. I have a natural disposition of not flirting when I'm in a relationship, so do many of my friends. When the next guy comes along, you set the boundaries you need, and if he can't follow them, you dump him.

If you decide to learn from this, you're gonna come out on the other end stronger, more confident, and more relaxed in these matters. I did.
posted by svenni at 3:04 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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