brb, getting my life together.
February 27, 2011 9:13 PM   Subscribe

You've met someone who could, in many, many ways, be the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with. What do you do if the timing is off?

I am looking to hear stories from folks here who have met their soul-mates and potential-soul mates during periods of their lives that are profoundly inconvenient and/or ill-timed.

Did you pursue the relationship anyway, and did it work out? Or did you continue on with whatever you were originally doing (starting a new job, growing up, etc) only to reunite with this person later?

I ask because I have met someone who might just be that guy. The thought of spending the rest of my life with this person eventually is a happy thing, but it is the "eventually" that brings me happiness, not a "now". I feel very strongly that I still have some things that I need to pursue by myself to complete my transition into adulthood and make myself whole before I can adequately become this incredible man's partner in crime. Obstacles include: a deep, abiding desire to move across the country to pursue a career in an environment that I am better suited for; an arresting fear of intimacy that I have only just begun to hammer out; and a longing need to get to know myself and what it is exactly that I'm here for that feels awfully like it needs to be a solitary venture rather than a joint one.

The thought of losing this guy while I get my shit together makes me wonder: is it possible to reunite later if one part of a partnership takes time to complete themselves so that a later relationship can be stronger?

Or is what I'm feeling just a gut instinct that this relationship is just not going to happen?
posted by patronuscharms to Human Relations (27 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The thought of losing this guy while I get my shit together makes me wonder: is it possible to reunite later if one part of a partnership takes time to complete themselves so that a later relationship can be stronger?

He may or not still be around and available and interested when you're done doing your thing (and you may not still be into him, but for the sake of argument we'll say you are). That's the gamble you'll be taking, and only you know if that's the right thing for you to do.
posted by amro at 9:34 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You've got other things to do. Do them. Don't ask him to wait for you, and don't wait for him. Stay in touch, and maybe the timing will be better later. FWIW, I would take your feelings that you have other things to do first as being a subtle indication that you unconsciously think he might not be a "potential soulmate", but rather the closest thing you've met so far.

Since you ask for stories - I met my person six years ago. I'd already changed my profile location on the online dating site because I was four weeks away from a thousand-mile move. I'm still not entirely sure why he got an email with my profile in it as a suggested match from the dating site.

He emailed me, and I went out on a date with him for fun, because he sounded really interesting, but we both totally knew that it was impossible because like I said, I was a month away from a huge move, and he was about to sign a long-term work contract. We connected in a way that I hadn't experienced before. He didn't sign the contract. I still left in four weeks, but two months later, he moved a thousand miles to be with me. It was rough going for a while for him, because the new city didn't have the jobs he was qualified for. But here we are, having met each other at a mutually inconvenient time in our lives, still together, and may I say, happier than we've ever been, six years later.

Oh, and my guy says to go with your gut. If it says you have stuff to do without the guy, go do it.
posted by arnicae at 9:38 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a gay guy. I met my boyfriend in the summer of 2006. Online. While I was deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army.

Pretty profoundly inconvenient time/place in life to start a relationship. We're still a couple, only now we're able to live together.

We're both still trying to figure out who we are, individually and collectively. I'm pretty sure that, for most people, that particular question takes longer than a lifetime to answer. It's up to you if this is the right place, time, and person for you.
posted by kavasa at 9:42 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

A good relationship needn't get in the way of any of your plans for fulfilling career moves and/or self-actualization and self-knowledge. A relationship that is good will make all of those things easier, less anxiety-provoking, and more attainable.

I hear in your question (forgive me if I'm wrong) a sense that you've assessed yourself and found yourself inadequate somehow specifically in comparison to his awesomeness. The most important question is, inadequate according to what standards and in whose perspective?

If you feel yourself incapable of emotional intimacy and thus inadequately prepared for a relationship of any kind, then by all means defer. But if you think you're inadequately prepared to be with him simply because you find yourself lacking in comparison with how "incredible" he is, well, that's a whole different plate of beans. That's just fear and low self-esteem, and you need to make that part of you be quiet so you don't sabotage a potential lifelong relationship. You don't have to be perfect for him, and you don't have to do all your growth as a person in advance in order to be worthy of a relationship with him.
posted by jesourie at 9:45 PM on February 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh man.

First of all, there was the age difference. No, wait.

First of all we were in college. My junior year, his senior year. Due to being completely on my own at a rather young age (14) it took me a while to get to college. So there I was, all 26 years of me, studying economics, quiet and serious. And there he was, working in the library, finishing his poly-sci degree, and 21. Mind you, I had decided from the get-go that college was going to be all no-nonsense academic studies and straight A's. No parties, no boys (or girls!). I had worked hard to get there, damnit, I wasn't going to wreck it all by getting moony over some fella.


I had noticed him the year before. I'd come into the library and stare. And every now and then I'd catch him staring back. Despite all stern inward warnings to the contrary, I'd print out stacks of my "smart-sounding" neuroscience journal articles just to take over to the main counter (where he worked) and ask for a stapler. I'd look for reasons to say something to him, anything. His Obama shirt. Funny campus stories. Immediate surroundings. The weather. It was ridiculous.

The following year, I began working at the library too (oh blissful coincidence). Then we started sharing random shifts. He was mature, and interesting, and funny. I couldn't help crushing, badly. When he asked me out, for the first time since beginning school I said "Yes", immediately. Not "I'll call you," or "I'll think about it," which were my go-to responses. It was simply, "Yes." We had one date. Then another. Then we were, simply, together.

Here's where it gets complicated, oh patronuscharms. He was a month from graduation, with plans to tour Europe and then head off to the Peace Corps. I was a year from graduation, with a ten-year plan dedicated to Earning The Big Bucks. HE WAS PROFOUNDLY INCONVENIENT. But I couldn't help it, I really couldn't. I loved him.

Nevertheless, he did graduate. And the night before he left to head into the great wide world we attempted to break up. (Basically we walked to an empty gold course, spoke very little, held each other a lot, and then walked back to his place.) I felt it was unfair to ask for anything more; I WANTED him to experience everything life had to offer without being tied down to someone. I was acutely aware of the age difference, although in every other applicable aspect that difference was negligible. I didn't want a long distance relationship, and I certainly didn't want to be so seriously involved with someone 5 years my junior. Believe me, I had my own wants and needs, my own plans. I knew that going our separate paths was the right thing.

Until the next day. I left his place that morning, both of us torn up and crying, me in my car sobbing to work. At work, something shifted, something clicked. I drove as fast I could after work, hoping to catch him before he left the state. I was too late. I sat in my car, outside the house he had packed up and left, and thought for a bit. This was CRAZY. I had had infatuations, and relationships, even those breathless obsessive high school ones, and nothing had ever filled me with this feeling of a future than this guy. It wasn't about promises or percentages of survival. It was simply that he fit, better than anyone had fit in my life. I called him. I told him that I had no idea where he was going to be in a year, two years. That I had no idea what confessing all of this to him would entail. But that I knew where I was going to be for the next year, and that if there was a chance he would find himself heading in this direction, I could wait. I paused, all out of breath. "I never wanted us to break up," he said. "There's something about us."

He did come back, and (thankfully, truly) not because of me. At least not wholly. We live in our own apartments about a block from each other. And in a month we'll be marking off two years of being together. We still have some of our own things to do, and we're doing them at our own pace. So far, it's working out better than anyone, especially me, could have predicted.

So take hope. You'll know. And don't be afraid to try.
posted by thatbrunette at 9:46 PM on February 27, 2011 [15 favorites]

I think the best thing to do is to take relationships one day at a time. Are things promising/good now? Pursue them. Be honest about your goals. If he can't tolerate that uncertainty, he's not the person for you. But it would be foolish to put off a relationship indefinitely because you have hazy ideas in your mind what grown-up life will look like.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:53 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

(My story: met 24-year-old dude online when I was 18. Was supposed to be leaving for college, but he wanted to meet up anyway because our emails were that damned good. We did. Began to fall intensely in love--but where were we headed? College plans changed when financial aid fell through. Went to local school. Dated for years. Love love love. Wanted to go to grad school far away, but he was finally finishing college himself. Go, he said. Do what you need to do. We have two years of sometimes-painful long distance. I graduate. He moves in. We're now married. In September, it'll be 9 years together. I am not the person I thought I would be at 18. But I am better, in a large part because good love can change you and improve you in ways you never anticipated.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:01 PM on February 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

The thought of spending the rest of my life with this person eventually is a happy thing, but it is the "eventually" that brings me happiness, not a "now". I feel very strongly that I still have some things that I need to pursue by myself to complete my transition into adulthood and make myself whole before I can adequately become this incredible man's partner in crime.

Based on this I think you should go ahead and pursue what you desire. I think if that's a mistake, you will realize it, and can think of a way to get back to this guy. But if you get into a relationship with him first and put off what you want to do in life, that could be a much unhappier situation, because you might always wonder what life would have been like while pursuing your other dreams.

The stories people are telling are very nice, but I hear a much stronger conviction from you that there you are not yet ready for this relationship. Or maybe you are, but I think first you need to try to pursue the other things you are after before knowing that.
posted by bearette at 10:22 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A thought --

All these things you want to do for yourself may change you. In fact, they may change you to the point that this guy may not be suited for you any more. ....But you wouldn't NOT make these changes just to keep him, would you? No.

So do them. Do whatever you can with him that feels right, when it feels right. Things feeling good with him right now may also be a reflection on who YOU are right now, rather than him being perfect for the person you WILL be later.

It sounds like cold comfort perhaps, but...wisdom can be like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:39 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

About a year and half into dating my husband he showed up at my apartment and told me that he was going to lose his job and that the only jobs available were 3,000 miles away. I thought about it and then realized he was the most important thing in my life... (more important than my job, which came as a surprise) so I decided to treat him as the most important thing and moved across the country.
posted by bananafish at 11:43 PM on February 27, 2011

About three months ago, I fell in love with an unbelievable woman. About two months ago, I hopped a flight to start my new job on the other side of the world.

We both knew I was moving, and we both let ourselves fall, for what it's worth.

Whether you walk away to do your thing or not, you're opening yourself up for what's going to feel like some pretty significant regret in the short run. Trust your head, your heart, and your ambition when you choose, but do understand that sometimes what feels like regret is maybe misplaced loneliness, unrecognized stress, or something else completely unrelated to what you think you're feeling in the moment.

Know that part of getting your shit together is having enough faith in yourself to make a decision and see it through with a desire to succeed, whatever you decide to do. Please commit yourself to your choice, and don't sabotage your happiness because you letting yourself become consumed with regret.

(For the record, I'm happy I'm here. She brings me more joy than I knew I could experience, but I worked damn hard to get this opportunity, and I'm not going to regret giving this job a shot.)
posted by GamblingBlues at 2:18 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some things can't be postponed. Some chances only come once. So, don't bet that you can make that "eventually" happen one fine day in the never never. If you need to know what it is to be with this person, then so be it. If the time is really not right, then so be it. Both are quite valid choices, but don't count on your future being one way or the other. Anything is possible.
posted by deadwax at 3:13 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of amazing stories here about people who have made awkward timing work. But sometimes it doesn't work out, and there's plenty to learn there about character and patience and hope. It's possible to cross paths with someone and know they will be in touch, one way or another, for as long as your lives last, because there is something there that neither of you will let go. But it's also possible that the right conditions won't ever happen to make that connection anything deeper. It's not much fun, but it teaches a lot, about what love means and what it is you really see in that person that you admire. It teaches you what to look for and nurture in everyone around you - and yourself.

He's not the only one, you know. He's not your last chance at anything.

I think it's important for each person to be mutually good for the other, so that when each has hard times, the other has the strength to give support and direction. If you're in a place right now where you feel you have some work to do on yourself, it might be a kindness to take the risk and make yourself the priority now. You might be giving whatever potential relationship there is a better chance of taking root and truly thriving. You want the best for him, yes? And you want the best for yourself? Your course of action is where those two things intersect.
posted by griselda at 3:19 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Keep talking!
posted by parmanparman at 3:35 AM on February 28, 2011

I ask because I have met someone who might just be that guy. The thought of spending the rest of my life with this person eventually is a happy thing, but it is the "eventually" that brings me happiness, not a "now".

By definition, this is not "that guy." "That guy" is the one you not only like, but are in sync with. Calling someone "that guy for the future" is the same as saying he is not "that guy" because were he "that guy" you would not have the hesitations you do.

That's cool. Love is not the lottery, there is not one winning ticket. There is more than one person for you. And, if you feel like you want to make this guy "that guy," then change your plans and get in sync.
posted by OmieWise at 4:59 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am in desperate love with my husband. We've been married almost 5 years and got married 13 years to the day after we met, after 10 years of it not being right.

I love the sappy story, but here's the thing: Sometimes, I have a sense of regret that we didn't get together sooner if it's so awesome now. And then I run through all the things that were wrong with us and not ready for each other back then and how we had to work through them on our own to get to now and then I sigh and accept fate.

If I had, however, spent those ten years thinking, "Oh, I can't wait for the day that we're together" I never would have been ready.

So my advice, not knowing anyone in the situation so it's total guess, but move on accepting that, if it's meant to be, it will happen. And if it doesn't, you can cherish the feeling you get now as a gift in itself.
posted by Gucky at 5:50 AM on February 28, 2011

People often grow up/find themselves/get their shit together by committing to and loving others whether they're "ready" or not.

If this guy is "the one," he will love you the way you are. Not in spite of your flaws because they are part of you. And he will encourage you, challenge you, nurture you, irritate the hell out of you, betray you, be incredibly sweet to you, go through the motions with you, and stick by you whether he feels like doing it or not.

The thing is, he'll be growing up/finding himself/getting his shit together too. It'll take at least a few decades for the both of you to get to the point where you are ready to be married. And that's if you stick together and help one another. Good thing you don't have to do this growing up stuff alone. It goes faster with two.
Think of two stones in a rock tumbler. They come out smooth and pretty, but that's after a long time tumbling together, knocking into each other, rubbing up against each other, and taking the brunt of each others' rough edges. They don't come out smooth because they were extraordinarily good stones going in. They come out smooth and pretty because they STAYED IN THE TUMBLER long enough
posted by cross_impact at 6:22 AM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

Timing is everything. I have met a few people in my life that I thought I could potentially see "forever" with, except the timing was off and it didn't work out. Once I went back to someone to see if we could be together then, a few years later, when the timing was better, but we had both changed and the relationship was different.

Then I met someone perfect, the timing was as perfect as it could get, and we got married and started a family.

That's just my story, doesn't mean it won't work out for you, just wanted to give my experience :)
posted by katypickle at 6:43 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have dated and loved at least three incredible men who I would have gladly spent the rest of my life with. But our lives were taking us in different directions (literally, one or both of us would be moving away) and sadly the situation wasn't ripe to abandon plans and stay together somehow. So when we parted, there was that understanding that if things could have been different, if fate brings us together again and we're both still interested, then we'll gladly try again. Those three men have since begun relationships with other wonderful girls in their respective hometowns.

My boyfriend is someone I met over a year ago, and there was 3 times in the first 8 months where life was getting in the way and I thought "well, it's been lovely" and there was a break for a few months. And yet he kept coming back, making the effort to see me, and maintain contact. We've been in an "official dating" mode for four months now and another hurdle is coming this summer - he'll be moving to another province, one where it's not so easy for me to get a job. But if he asks me, I will go with him. I've got enough "life experience" under my belt to feel prepared to make that leap of faith and follow my heart instead of a steady career/easy life.

My advice is simply to do what's right for you, right now. If you've met one amazing guy already, I guarantee there will be others if you are open to it. This one may work out in the long term, he might not, just do your best to stay in touch. But you are seeking to grow up a bit and that will change you, and when you come out the other side he might not be mr. right for you anymore.
posted by lizbunny at 7:23 AM on February 28, 2011

Another gay guy here. I met my partner online while I was on deployments to the Persian Gulf. Both of us were active duty military at the time. The timing was all wrong, and the situation was about as far from ideal as you can get - but I knew in my gut what I needed to do.

I left active duty when my time was up and followed him to his next duty assignment.

Nine years, a mortgage, and two dogs later we're still together and happy as clams.
posted by matty at 7:51 AM on February 28, 2011

I am used to be the guy in your situation. Most guys with any self respect would NOT wait around for you. Do not lead him on . IF you feel you cannot have a relationship now then do not even date any guys till you are ready. It is really screwed up to just break up with him and move across country. Karam sucks and it will get back to you.

The woman who was just like what you are describing as your self did what you say you might and now is not in a very good place right now (has two children and married and both unemployed).

Get yourself together before hooking up with anyone. You will be better off in the end .
posted by majortom1981 at 8:55 AM on February 28, 2011

The thought of losing this guy while I get my shit together makes me wonder: is it possible to reunite later if one part of a partnership takes time to complete themselves so that a later relationship can be stronger?

Maybe? But that's assuming he didn't find someone else in the meantime and settle down with that one.

For some folks, it is darned rare to find someone they can partner with. If you find someone to date as easily as taking a breath of air, then eh, you probably could pass this one up. But somehow reading your post I kind of doubt it's that easy. If you pass this person up and leave the country and do whatever you're doing, would you miss them? Would you feel sorry that you'd passed them up when you find out in 2 years that he's married someone else? If no, then eh, pass this one by. If you would feel bad... then don't.

From what I've heard of these stories, nobody ever says, "I wish I had passed up that person so I could work on my career and get all self-actualized and THEN be ready for love first." I don't think I'd recommend it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:40 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your ability to predict if someone is capable of being a lifelong mate is unreliable, fallible, and probably inaccurate.

If I am wrong, then you should rent out your mystical powers to those who almost never choose a life mate. In the USA, at least, people apparently suck at it. Most marriages fail. Most relationships fail. (If you don't believe the latter.... exactly how many boyfriends have you had so far? More than one, I bet. Ditto for all your cohort girls. Q.E.D.)

There is/will always be someone else. Unless you are deluded enough to think that there is only one Mr. (or Ms.) Right, and think you can choose that granule of sand off of all the beaches in the world, I wouldn't worry too much about the one that got away. One (1) divided by 3.25 billion (approximate # of males on the planet now) is a rough approximation of your odds. 1/160 million is restricted to the USA. Drop it down for married, too old, too young, too stupid...yada yada yada and you'll still be a 1/20-40 million.

The odds of randomly finding someone ACCEPTABLE, however, are huge.

What won't happen again is your life. In less than 100 years, and likely in less than 80, you'll be dead. Why not go do what it is you think you want to do and see if there are any nice boys out there doing it, too? Then, at least you'll converge on desires and maybe, just maybe, be able to get beyond the magic limerance stage and into contentment.

Or, you could just go with the lizard brain urge and forget all that reason stuff. That, in fact, is probably what you'll do. It's what most people do. I wonder why folks keep asking this question in all its varied forms?

It all boils down to preferring thinking or feeling. Nature does not want you to think. Do you agree with her plans for you or do you prefer the harder road of reason? Decide that and you'll decide about this boy. If you do not set aside the drunkenness of infatuation you are drunk driving with your life plans. Not the safest way to get where you are going, is it?
posted by FauxScot at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2011

Follow your passion, but a note:

That instinct about the soul-mate/person-you-are-going-to-spend-the-rest-of-your-life-with:

That instinct is not perfectly efficient when you are young. It improves with age.
posted by ovvl at 4:38 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Timing is meaningless, crazy shit happens in everyone's life and can completely change the path you are on.

I flunked out of college the first time. Started again 3 years later. Started tending bar to make money and meet women. Ended up marrying the first woman I met. I was too young and still in college, she was five years older. No she wasn't pregnant or rich. Twenty-one years and two kids later we're settling into being an older middle-aged married couple. We've had illnesses (adult and child), job losses, family crises, ect., all of which derailed or altered plans. You just adapt, it's what people do.

Now I don't believe in soul mates or any such nonsense, but if he really is compatible with you do you really want to look back in 20 years, maybe have a great career but have no one to share your life with? Or even worse, be stuck with someone who you settled for when the pickings got slimmer?
posted by JohntheContrarian at 5:18 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

A successful story here: started "dating" even though we could only we be together on vacations (for 5 years); and after that decided jump into moving in together, got married, had kid. Even now sometimes he goes away or I go away or one of us delves deep into some soul searching stuff. (For example: "I need to go to China right now even though you just started grad school." "How can I help you pack? When would be best for me to visit? And I love you.")
What is important is that we support each other's process, we communicate clearly our own needs, we listen to the other person, we love optimistically and unconditionally, and when the conversation gets funky we have a "do over." It does not matter if this guy is the one for you to spend the rest of your life with - do what you need to do to be the best person and it will come through in the relationship. If your time together continues to be fantastic - great; if not, that is great too because just opening yourself up to love and other possibilities is also fantastic.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 9:31 PM on February 28, 2011

Response by poster: Stuck it out. Could not be happier that I did. I am so, so lucky to be with this man and after voicing my fears about all of this to him, we were able to work through some of it together and will continue to do so as long as we know each other. Thank you for all the input.
posted by patronuscharms at 9:21 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

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