We love each other, how do we stop so we can get on with our lives?
March 23, 2011 7:40 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little more than a year and we are really good together but don't share the same "life goals." We have to break up, right? How?

Our sense of humors click, we like a lot of the same things but also have our own (very different) interests, we enjoy spending time together as friends and are super sexually compatible. For clarity's sake, I'm a 33-year old woman in the U.S.

When we first started dating I was hesitant to get serious because he is divorced and has children. I later realized that it wasn't such a big deal and he told me he was "all-in." He has known from the start that I ultimately want to be in a committed relationship and have a family. When the issue has come up he has said that he was open to more kids but wasn't necessarily looking for it. Two months ago he joked about getting a vasectomy (even though I have an IUD) and I naturally took it poorly. This week, after I was 20 days late (but not pregnant) he was rattled and confirmed that he's pretty sure he's not open to any more kids.

I completely understand why he would be sour on marriage and not want to have any more kids. He understands that I can't continue on in a relationship if it means giving up a lot of what I want for my life. I want to continue to travel and possibly live abroad again but he wants to be a good dad and take part in his children's' lives so doesn't see that happening time or money-wise. I live in a big city and use my bicycle for transportation, he lives in the suburbs (where his kids are) and loves his car. Despite being head over heels for each other we both realize that we have major and unresolvable differences. Neither of us see a way to resolve this and feel defeated by the idea that we can't be together.

In the past he's said that because of his kids I have to be the one to compromise on everything (kids, money, location, etc.) but he knows it would be wrong to ask that of me and tells me I deserve everything I want in life. He jumped into all of the big life things really early while I purposely delayed everything so I could save money, work on my career and travel. After spending all of my 20s not dating and not forming commitments (mortgage, car payments, men, pets) I feel like it is a shame to throw all of the freedom I've created for myself away. I'll be 34 this year and want to have a partner to share a life and possibly have children with. I'm not tripping over myself to get married or have kids this minute, but I want to keep it as a possibility and feel pressure to move in that direction.

We both love each other very much but know we have to break up. There's no hope, right? How do we do this? We've talked about it and just... can't. How do you break up when neither of you want to? How do I try to date when I already love someone? My friends have no one to set me up with and I've never met men volunteering, working or during any of the activities I do. My friends all say that I am such an amazing person that I deserve someone equally as amazing but, frankly, everyone I've been interested in since I turned 30 is already taken or not interested. My boyfriend was the first man I've met in 10 years that I clicked with and shared a mutual attraction with. He jokes about me setting up an OKCupid profile but the idea makes my stomach turn. Thinking about not talking to him every day makes me want to cry. This is my first relationship since college (I was busy working and traveling to cool places) and my only real "grown-up relationship ever. How do I walk away from it for my own good when I don't want to give it up?

TL;DR version: In five years I see myself living in Europe and traveling with my husband and kid. My boyfriend sees himself living in the same town he grew up in, continuing with life as it is while supporting the kids he already has. How do we break up when neither of us wants to?

*I don't really want to set up yet another email address. If you mention it here I'm comfortable talking through mefimail—I just didn't want this connected to my account so easily.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
You're a grown woman, planning her life, and your SO has very different plans. I've known many, many couples to break up over this very issue (children or not?); I was half of one of them.

He might change his mind; you might change your mind; but even then, years down the road, it'd be "I did this for you."

I don't have a good answer for how to do it. In my case, my ex-girlfriend asked me, "You need to find someone else, don't you?", I said "yes", we both cried, and I left. There was a lot more to it, of course, but... it won't be easy.

A better man awaits: one who wants to be the daddy of your kids.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:02 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's going to hurt a lot, but you just gotta do it. You either do it now, make the break clean, have it be a bittersweet even that you look back on with nostalgia but knowing it was the right thing to do when you've made the life you want.

Or you do it later, when neither of you has budged, the resentment has grown, you feel your biological clock ticking, and the end of the relationship becomes messy and bitter and you're in your late 30s or early 40s and despairing about the bias against women over 35 in the dating world and wondering if you'll be able to have kids without the help of a fertility doctor.

Whatever route you choose, especially if you choose the first one, try to sever--no contact at ALL--for a good while, at least half a year to a year. You won't want to but continued contact with the SO will make it that much more difficult to move on.
posted by schroedinger at 8:10 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Soooo much of a good relationship is timing. I am sorry the timing is off on this relationship but realistically, you would most likely break up five or six years from now having spent your thirties according to his schedule and needs. And it will be worse then as you will be a big part of his children's lives and you will sort of breaking up with them too.

I think a lot of people are conditioned to thinking break-ups are huge dramatic deals over major issues like abuse or infidelity, but a lot of sad, quiet breakups happen because two people realise that despite being compatible in so many ways, and loving each other so much, there are one or two major issues that will doom the relationship inevitably and recognise it is better to say goodbye with love.

Tell him you love him, and you will always hold him in a special place in your heart but you need to space to create the life you want. Then walk away with no further contact until you have taken that trip to Europe with your husband and children.
posted by saucysault at 8:13 PM on March 23, 2011 [19 favorites]

While I can see where you think this is a tough case, I think the answer is the same no matter what the reason for breaking up. Break up only if it is the right thing to do. Regardless of the reason, it will be hard. You may have regrets, but it is simply a case of what is more important you dreams of your picture perfect future or being with bf in what appears to be a suburban family sort of way.

I think the hard part for you is that to agree to change you dreams for the future means that you are really telling yourself that you wasted your 20's and your well thought out and well executed plan is for naught. If it were me, I would look at my 20's as a sunk cost; that is, it is the past and you cannot change it, but do not try to make current decisions to justify it. Go with your heart more than you plan.

Finally, while if it were me I would not break up, but I would follow love and compromise my dreams to be with the person who is right, I would counsel you to that if you are not yet willing to alter you plans for the future, to break up sooner rather than later. I also do not think that the fact that the thought of going back into the dating pool is painful is a good reason to not break up.

Good luck and whatever you do, don't look back.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:18 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take a good look at his face when he is asleep beside you. Ask yourself what you see. Forget about "timing" and don't listen to anyone, including me. If you want to be with him there is no getting around it. Europe is not going away. And good sex is vastly underrated. I am not being facetious. If you look at him and see the one you love there is no more to say. Just don't bother to get married; it's a pain.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:21 PM on March 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Rent a farm house (or whatever floats your boat) in an outerring suburb. He will still be able to commute to his kids' schools and maintain his current situation...and you guys can write your own story.
posted by ian1977 at 8:24 PM on March 23, 2011

Europe is not going away.

True, Europe will never go away. But the OP's ability to have children will.

Sorry, I wish certain facts of life weren't facts of life, but they are. OP, I am sure you're familiar with the relevant biological realities about women and children. Your ability to safely have children is going to start declining at a certain point.

What you've written here makes it obvious that if you want to have children, you have to break up with him.

If you break up with him, it's going to be really, really unfun for a while. So are many things we have to do in life. You'll get through it. And one day you'll find yourself with someone else, someone you're focusing on and devoted to, but who you can't possibly focus on right now. And you'll look back on all this and laugh.
posted by John Cohen at 8:30 PM on March 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

I would love to be sanguine about this since you both sound like really decent folks but the kids thing is a dealbreaker. He doesn't want more children, and who can blame him? He needs to devote his resources (time, attention, energy, love and money) to the ones he's already got; that's what responsible parents do. If you want kids, you need a partner who wants them just as much, or it's going to be just terrible. Part now, with loving memories and with some fertile years still available to you. If you can swing it, I strongly suggest a trip somewhere as a starting point for your new life. Maybe not alone though -- see if the nearest university offers alumni travel packages; those trips are usually really fantastic. Good luck.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:39 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

If your urge is so strong, this can only go one way. Better that you split now, while accepting each other's differences appears doable without all the negative stuff that WILL arise if you leave it too long. You will never look back and laugh as JC suggests, but you will smile and perhaps tear up a little over what you left behind.

However, what you find is in the lap of the gods - sorry people, this is not a movie, and happy endings are not to be counted on.

But you need to do what you need to do, and not to be put off by the uncertainties and fear of the unknown. Be honest with yourself and those around you, and trust in yourself and your judgement.

Good luck.
posted by GeeEmm at 8:50 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I were deeply in love with an amazing person, I would stay despite these issues.

I would stay because I long ago decided I would love the children that come into my life whether they are my own biological children, my nieces and nephews, my husband's children from a previous relationship, or my adopted children. The reality is that no one knows if they will actually have their own biological children.

My thought process was individual to me and my life:

To me, having an incredible relationship with my husband is more important than choosing someone who I can have (hypothetical) children with. [I've seen many women settle for biological clock reasons, and I don't think that's happy]

I've observed several women close to me subject their bodies to crazy fertility treatments. I don't want that for myself. So I made peace with adoption as a very real possibility.

On the travel subject - my mother loves traveling and my dad doesn't. She goes on many trips on her own for work or with her girlfriends. You don't need to have everything in common.

Only you know if these things are a total deal breaker.

I am only suggesting you think VERY hard about whether these factors are your absolute top priorities, or whether a great relationship with someone you love is your top priority.

PS Don't stay because you think you can change him though, that's a recipe for misery.
posted by rainydayfilms at 9:28 PM on March 23, 2011 [10 favorites]

We both love each other very much but know we have to break up. There's no hope, right? How do we do this? We've talked about it and just... can't. How do you break up when neither of you want to?

I did this. We had dated for almost three years and were in love, plain and simple. But he had his Big Life Plan, had had it for ages, and it was very specific and very circumscribed and there was no room in it for me to do the things I wanted to do. And as he got more and more invested in His Town and His Career and His Friends, I began to feel more and more like... His Girlfriend. Not like my own, independent human being. At age 22 I was slowly beginning to feel like a dissatisfied 1950s housewife. And as I lost that independent part of myself, I was also becoming less and less the girl he fell in love with.

I can say all this now because it's over- back then, I could barely even admit to myself that I wasn't joyously happy. After all, I really, really loved him, and he loved me too.

We were lying in bed one night and he brought up the idea of breaking up and we just... did it. Had the worst conversation of my life and then fell asleep holding each other, and three weeks later I was gone. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life, and also one of the best decisions I could possibly have made for myself. (Again, I can say this with the gift of perspective. The six months after the breakup were some of the worst months of my life, but I got through them and I think they made me a stronger person. But I wouldn't relive them for a million dollars.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:33 PM on March 23, 2011 [8 favorites]

Long-term relationships are based on compromise, it sounds like neither of you are ready to compromise. Either find a way to compromise and stay together, or don't and split up.

The nature of the compromise is a moot point, either you to figure it out and stay together, or don't.

How do you break up then?

Do you throw a vase at his head and call him a sorry piece of shit and storm out with a lot of drama, then board a plane to europe and meet the love of your life? Not likely.

Most likely you two are going to decide to call it quits, then have a lot of great passionate sex at varying intervals, you will cry a lot tears, then you will both start having sex with other people, getting your hearts broken into a billion bloody shards. Sometime, far off into the future, you two will eventually start healing and moving on. At least that's how it usually seems to work.

Maybe you two will break up then realize that breaking up is the dumbest damn thing you two ever did and then get back together and figure it out?

I really don't know, but love is hard to come by, don't think you can just walk out on this relationship and mosey on into the relationship you think you are owed, that's for sure.
posted by roboton666 at 10:35 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Thanks everyone, I needed to hear all of this. I don't like the idea of no contact. I know you're right, but... that's, wow, I can't imagine.

Travel: I am a very independent person and usually travel alone. I know it will be a difficult to find a guy as well-traveled as I am or who likes to travel the same way I do.

Kids: Until I was in my late 20s I was adamant that I didn't want kids, that they wouldn't be worth the things I'd have to give up to have them. Now I think I can still do cool stuff and don't have to become a soccer mom. I have a few friends going through fertility issues and it scares me. Who's to say I even can have kids now or will be able to when I'm 38? No one knows. If I could just wait another 10 years I wouldn't worry about it at all, but I have to be realistic. I also have a whole group of married/coupled friends who don't want kids and I can see the benefits of that route. I don't know what the future holds for me but I'm scared to close off any paths.

Compromise: Realistically I know that I will probably end up in the suburbs if I have kids because city schools are horrible and I won't be able to afford private school. I also know that living abroad again might not happen, although it would be nice. It saddens me to think that the possibility is gone.

I don't want to have kids with someone who is not only already torn in so many directions with his current kids, but isn't super excited about starting a family with me. Marriage isn't such a big deal to me but I do want someone who wants a partner and a commitment to a future together. Maybe I'm being naive about how guys feel about wanting any of this stuff.

Dating: I read all of the mefi stories about how great online dating can be but only hear horror stories from my single friends over 26. I'm not even ready to think about that yet but I wonder if I can find someone as great as my current SO. I get the impression I'm lucky to have found someone so compatible (a fried set us up based on what I was looking for in bed, actually). I imagine it will take a long time to be ready to start again. I like spending time with myself so it takes a special person to make me want to put in the time and effort. Online dating sounds like it would zap any will to meet people out of me but I promise I'll think about it sometime down the road.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:39 PM on March 23, 2011

The alternative to breaking up is to change the dream of your life.

You are faced with a terrible choice, and I don't envy you. Either way you decide you'll have regrets; it is possible you won't find someone else you care for as much as him. But it is also true that you may never get to have your own kids if you stay. If it were me I'd try to think about the best and worst that could come of each choice and decide which I truly couldn't bear.

But once you have done that....chose and know you chose. Walk forward with clear eyes whatever you decide; every choice has a price, and you've got to figure out which one you're willing to pay. The worst thing you can do is stumble forward, getting by day to day, and let time end up making your choices for you; that will poison your life with resentment.
posted by Diablevert at 10:42 PM on March 23, 2011 [18 favorites]

What Diablevert said. You both have a choice to make. A lot of couples spend time stalled at this same kids/no-kids crossroads, and some go forward together, and some don't. There are a lot of compromises people do make, but it's a very personal decision.

Something that helped me once in a breakup was to imagine that my "real boyfriend" was on his way to meet me somewhere or pick me up and that I had to be ready in time. That image personified my dreams for the future. It felt less like I was choosing pain and loneliness over a pretty good relationship.

I also think you might find this breakup a relief, like finally ripping the bandaid off. Good luck.
posted by salvia at 11:05 PM on March 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

Something to say about the "no contact": if an ex of mine and I had adhered to "No contact" post-breakup we would likely not feel as bitter to one another as we do today. At the breakup I couldn't imagine not speaking to him ("he's my best friend, the guy I love, blah blah blah!") but not making that sever tore each of us apart, made it a thousand times harder to move on, and led to a lot of angry, fucked-up moments.
posted by schroedinger at 11:46 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do the children in your life have to be biologically yours? If you and your boyfriend get married at some point (or make the social commitment of your choice), you will become a step-mother to his children.

There's a lot of different ways to make a family.
posted by Georgina at 5:10 AM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

How long have you known this?

Did you think you were going to change his mind?

Who wouldn't want a mommy to take care of his kids and not present him with more?

Do you see anything fundamentally wrong with his "I did it, but you can't" approach to family? Do you think this asymmetry bodes well for other things you might want to do and he doesn't? What if you want a dog? Or a PhD? Or a job in a different city? Or to stay put for a while in the same place? What about disciplining the kids he has? Who gets to decide?

Relationships are about testing, to some degree. Seems BF failed this one, to me at least.

Emotions, including love and fear, make bad decision partners. Relegate them to the closet, and try to REASON this out. You are 33. Your uterus has a timer on it. If you plan to use it, you'd best get your ass in gear. Unless, of course, you are completely immune to aging unlike every other woman who has ever lived. If there's no hubby around to make babies, there are alternatives. Just depends on what you want more, doesn't it?

Hard choice, but if you can manage to get the emotion out of it, I think you'll be better off.
posted by FauxScot at 5:11 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like in addition to not wanting to break up with him because you love him (and I am sure you both love each other), you are also scared to break up with him because you are afraid to date again and this is your first real relationship.

I don't think you will be happy long-term with this man. You would have to do all of the compromising - he has told you that flat out. No moving to exotic locations, money can't be spent on frivolous things because he has his kids to think about, and they come before you.

If you do break up, do it cleanly and right before a long trip, if possible. No contact. It's better that way.

People break up for these reasons all the time. It doesn't mean your relationship was a failure.
posted by amicamentis at 5:18 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing: it's starting to get a little late in the day for second thoughts.

You're 33, almost 34. If you want to have kids, the time to do it is right now. Your fertility is starting to become a really big deal, i.e. there's almost a 30% chance that your childbearing days are behind you already. If you want to have children without expensive fertility treatments--which really are no guarantee of success--you either need to be in a relationship with someone who wants to have kids with you tomorrow or you need to be willing to have those kids without a partner. This really isn't something you can afford to wait on.

You wanted to be childless in your twenties, and you want to live abroad someday. Thing is, neither of those things are all that compatible with settling down with a family. There's a reason many people with kids live in the suburbs too: that's where it's easiest to have them. And there's a reason that most people don't move overseas once they've got kids: it's massively disruptive to one's lifestyle, and kids don't handle that sort of thing nearly as well as adults do.

The truth is that you can not, in fact, have it all. Every choice to do A is a choice not to do B. You will never spend your 24th year in Paris, because you (presumably) didn't do that when you were 24. You also will not have teenage kids of your own before you're 40 because you didn't have kids in your twenties. You can't undo those choices, but those choices brought you to where you are today, including your current relationship.

It really sounds to me like you haven't come to terms with this. Modern culture promises us everything we've ever desired, but that's just a lie. My advice is for you to seriously sit down and evaluate your priorities. Is this simply a matter of having regrets about the choices you made five, ten, even fifteen years ago? Because if it is, it might be better to own those choices, live with the consequences, and stick with this guy whom you seem to think is pretty okay.
posted by valkyryn at 5:26 AM on March 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

Life goals change. Life is change.
posted by Flood at 5:27 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel for you, except that I have decided not to look for partners until I've got my wanderlust sorted out. What does your heart tell you? In mine, I know that if I were to settle down now, I would regret not doing things that would be easier as a single.

What does your heart tell you? Go forward with a fiery heart, but temper it with thy wisdom. All the best.
posted by TrinsicWS at 5:35 AM on March 24, 2011

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but as someone who has traveled the world and set foot on all its continents and dipped his feet in all its oceans, let me tell you this: if you are from the U.S. you are vastly, vastly underestimating how difficult it will be to relocate to Europe.

Don't let your plans for the future interfere with living your life now.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:38 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could break up with this man and still not have your own children, biologically or via adoption.

You could stay with this man, help raise his kids and travel without him.

There's no rule that says you have to live with your SO (though I think it's the best part).

His kids will need him close by for 10-20yrs at most, a small fraction of his remaining lifespan

I have a friend who chose the breakup route in a similar situation and it took a couple years to get over the breakup. She still hasn't found a new partner and is resigned to not procreating.

Personally, I would stick with him if he can imagine an unconventional life. But if either one of you can't, then it's time to bail out.

It's a scary and hard decision either way, good luck.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 6:05 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ignore all replies from people who say, "Here's what I would do if I were in your shoes." By contrast, read closely the replies from people who tell you, "I have been there, and here's what I did."
posted by red clover at 6:39 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Relationship is like a shark. It has to keep moving forward or it dies.

Annie Hall lives forever!
posted by jchaw at 7:58 AM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Living in another place and traveling are goals that can be met later in life without too much adjustment. There's a lot of ways to live an interesting, creative, adventurous life. But at 34, if you are certain you want kids, you should make it a priority. Your reproductive capability is not that adjustable. No guarantee that you'll meet a guy who wants kids, but if this guy is sure he won't have more, that's a known quantity. I have several friends who gave up kids for a a guy who already had kids, and there is some lasting regret.
posted by theora55 at 8:07 AM on March 24, 2011

Dating: I read all of the mefi stories about how great online dating can be but only hear horror stories from my single friends over 26.

As you know, AskMetafilter question where someone is looking for dating options gets flooded with recommendations -- by female as well as male commenters, including me. I'm pretty sure these commenters weren't planted by OKCupid staff. We're just as real as your friends! Online dating isn't all "horror stories." There are horror stories about "online" dating because there are always horror stories with dating, period. The "online" qualifier doesn't matter much.

You seem to be thinking of "online" dating as some alien entity that would take the place of a genuine relationship. Actually, relationship that start from online dating sites aren't qualitatively different than other relationships.

Example: I have an apartment. I found it on Craigslist. It isn't my "Craigslist apartment." It's just a normal apartment. Right? No one would question how genuine my apartment is.

Another example: I often use air travel. I always buy the tickets on Travelocity. These aren't "Travelocity plane trips." They're just normal plane trips. Ho-hum.

I've been in relationships with women I met on OKCupid and JDate. They weren't "OKCupid relationships" or "JDate relationships." They were just normal relationships. Nothing weird or alien about them.

I use Craigslist and Travelocity and OKCupid because the internet makes it more convenient to get the same old stuff we wanted to get before the internet existed. That's it.

If you're 33, soon to be 34, and determined to have children, I recommend finding new people to date sooner rather than later. Online dating isn't the be all and end all of dating in the 21st century. But many people have found it to be the most expeditious way to date.

I'm not even ready to think about that yet but I wonder if I can find someone as great as my current SO. I get the impression I'm lucky to have found someone so compatible

I'm sorry, but you don't sound very compatible, even based on your own description while you're in this relationship.

I've felt this way in several past relationships: "How will I ever find someone so compatible???" Without fail, once I moved on to the next relationship, that concern seemed totally irrelevant in retrospect.
posted by John Cohen at 8:37 AM on March 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

Don't stay with him because you're afraid of dating, stay with him because you can't imagine life without him.

If you do break up and start dating again - try to see it as an adventure and not an interview for the daddy of your children. I just wouldn't want to be on either side of that date.

I had plenty of dating (online and offline) horror stories, and then I met my fiance (online). Now my dating horror stories are hilarious to myself and others - if you can see them as funny at the time it's even better.
posted by rainydayfilms at 12:21 PM on March 24, 2011

I hate to be a debbie downer, but I'm with valkyryn on this. You laundry list of how you see you life - pregnancy! kids! hubby! biking! eurotravel! Sounds like what my life plan would look like if I wasn't bound by the need to financially support myself, the limitation of my body, and the time space continuoum.

But I get that there's limitations. And so I've set A priority, just one, in life and for me that is to have a life partner.

You need to figure out what's really important to you. If children are your priority, then you need to break up and start pursuing avenues of having children without a partner, not becuase you'll never find someone else, but because it's not a given that you'll find someone else before your childbearing time runs out.

Yes, we are raised to thinkg husband -> kids, but sometimes you have to pick either or. REally figure out which is your priority and let the rest unfold.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:28 PM on March 24, 2011

First of all, let me say that I have been there, and I empathize with you wholly. I'm actually kind of in the same situation yet again right now, which is why this comment is so long -- this comes from hard-won experience that I still have trouble following. It's a sad and frightening situation to find yourself in.

This sentence stood out to me:

"After spending all of my 20s not dating and not forming commitments... I feel like it is a shame to throw all of the freedom I've created for myself away."

You mean 23-year-old you couldn't predict the future?! No, of course you couldn't. No one can. When you were 23, you had an idea of how you would like your life to go, and at that point the world was pretty much your oyster. Every time you came to a crossroads, you made the decision that seemed right at the time to get yourself closer to that goal. Just remember that it's ok if you decide that your goals have changed.

You've come to a point where, no matter what you choose to do, you could regret this decision in a few years. The way you can avoid that is by really reflecting on what you want, then deciding which path is most likely to give you that. Then move forward knowing that you made that decision and therefore it was the right one.

I stayed in a relationship for 4 years longer than I should have because early on I made the decision to completely uproot my life to be with him, far from my family and friends, and if it didn't work out then that would mean that was the wrong decision, and that terrified me. I tried everything to make it work, I tried to change myself to be happy with the life he wanted, but eventually I admitted to myself that I couldn't be happy with him and I had to leave. I only wish I had the courage to own up to that 4 years earlier.

And really, moving to be with him wasn't the wrong decision. It was what I wanted at the time, and it was not made lightly. And I don't regret it, even though the breakup was very painful. I didn't return home with my tail between my legs -- I stayed here and continued to build my own awesome life. I actually think it's kind of fun to imagine how different my life would be if I had never chosen to move here.

My point is, there's no such thing as a *wrong* decision in these circumstances. It's just a fork in the road, and you have to choose a path, which means you choose not to go down the other path. How your life goes could be very different depending on which path you take. But you have to choose, or let life choose for you. Do whatever you need to feel confident that you're making the right choice -- and remember that it's unlikely you will ever feel completely confident, because both of these choices have upsides and downsides. You have to listen to your gut and trust it.

Be strong, and trust yourself. Somewhere inside of you, you know what the right choice is. I don't know what's right for you, nor does anyone else on the internet. Force yourself to be still and quiet for a time, and just think about what your life would be like if you went with Path A, then with Path B. Don't judge or scold yourself, don't get upset, just be still and quiet and notice how you feel when you think about each one. Do that over and over again, in different moods, on different days, in different places, in different seasons. If you start coming to the same conclusion 80% of the time, you have your answer. Have the courage to trust yourself.

Whatever you choose to do, allow yourself some time to mourn the thing you're giving up. You cannot avoid pain here, so allow yourself to be sad for a time. If you choose to stay with him, you will have a wonderful partner and probably a hell of a lot more financial security than the average person, but allow yourself to mourn the fact that you will not have the traditional family you had always envisioned (and he needs to support you in mourning that, because that's a huge thing to give up). If you choose to leave him, there is still a chance you may have the family you envisioned, but allow yourself to mourn that you're leaving a great relationship and things still may not turn out like you want them to.

Take as long as you need to mourn, but no longer. Then move forward and live the life you've chosen.
posted by roscopcoletrane at 3:25 PM on March 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

After spending all of my 20s not dating and not forming commitments (mortgage, car payments, men, pets) I feel like it is a shame to throw all of the freedom I've created for myself away. I'll be 34 this year and want to have a partner to share a life and possibly have children with. I'm not tripping over myself to get married or have kids this minute, but I want to keep it as a possibility and feel pressure to move in that direction...

Who's to say I even can have kids now or will be able to when I'm 38? No one knows. If I could just wait another 10 years I wouldn't worry about it at all, but I have to be realistic. I also have a whole group of married/coupled friends who don't want kids and I can see the benefits of that route. I don't know what the future holds for me but I'm scared to close off any paths...

I also know that living abroad again might not happen, although it would be nice. It saddens me to think that the possibility is gone...

I gotta say, this seems more to me like a fear of commitments/choices/paths not taken/not having all your option open, than an issue of incompatibility. Or at least a heaping helping of the former mixed in with the latter. If it's true, maybe exploring and facing that will help you figure out how to move forward.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:23 PM on March 26, 2011

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