Crazy love
November 26, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

The once love of my life contacted me today to say her feelings haven't changed in the eight years we've been apart. Neither have mine. What now?

Classic story, boy meets girl, they fall head over heels for two years then life throws a nasty curveball and it all ends in tears. She moves to another city, then another country. I retreat to a small town and drown myself in drink for the next few years. There have been many relationships since, some very short others longer but the feelings I had for her never went away despite my best efforts to surpress them. I'm currently in a happy, successful, positive long term relationship with a funny, talented, beautiful woman. She is apparently in the same with a man. We reconnected earlier this year through mutual friends on Facebook and exchanged polite and friendly messages on birthdays and have enjoyed discovering where our lives are now at through that most ignominious online way of doing so. Today I got a message from her saying that she'd never truly moved on and was still in love with me. I have always felt this way too. She wants to meet.

Emotionally, I've already betrayed my partner, I won't do so physically which would doubtless be the result if we were to meet.

Do I "shut this down" and deny this bond I have with another woman for the sake of my own and others happiness. Or pursue and risk everything for the possibility that she is the person I truly love.

Other info: both late 30's, unmarried, no children
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (68 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You will have to explain more about that "nasty curveball" that "life" threw before you can get good advice.
posted by yarly at 10:25 AM on November 26, 2011 [25 favorites]

You don't truly love your girlfriend? Break up with her. As soon as possible. No matter what happens with the other woman, she deserves that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:25 AM on November 26, 2011 [38 favorites]

Oh, just go ahead meet her. You know you'll regret it if you dont.
posted by zia at 10:25 AM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Does your current partner know about this person and your past?

My gut feeling is that this situation merits a discussion with your current partner. As PhoB said, she doesn't deserve the awfulness of someone staying with her out of obligation while in love (or even just maybe in love) with someone else.
posted by pupstocks at 10:27 AM on November 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

I did this, but he was getting divorced and I was sleeping in my own bedroom...why would you want to risk what you have now? Why would she? Are you just pining for your lost youth? Really. Try to be pragmatic here.
posted by virginia_clemm at 10:29 AM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Clarification: I don't know whether you two will break up during this discussion, but I'm saying your current partner deserves to know what's going on with you and she should have the option of leaving IF that is what she wants. I can't speak for her. She may want you to figure this shit out with Old Flame out in the open where she knows about it, then come back to her if it doesn't work out.

I, though, would want to end things, but that's me.
posted by pupstocks at 10:30 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you feel like you've already betrayed your current partner emotionally (from the information you give, I don't know if I agree that you have, but you'd know better than me), and if you want to be honest with everyone involved (and there is no doubt in my mind that you should), I don't think you have any choice but to tell your current partner about what's going on, then go on from there.
posted by box at 10:36 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Consider that while you think your feelings haven't changed, you have. And so has she. You're both still thinking you're in love with someone from eight years ago, and maybe you are. But those are not the people you are today (I hope).

I agree with those who say you need to talk with your current partner about this, and you need to do before you meet, if you meet. She needs to do the same.
posted by rtha at 10:36 AM on November 26, 2011 [25 favorites]

Go meet her.

Some people will advise you to tell your partner. Just the once, I'm going to advise you to work all of this out privately if if if you are the kind of person who will never need to blab about this to your partner or anyone else. Go.

Don't sleep with her. But you kinda need to find out one way or the other, without outside interference or additional drama.

I was just reading the other day about why we feel bonded to people like this years and years after being in contact. Something about how chemical reactions create pathways in your brain, and then when your new lady or anyone triggers those emotions/chemicals, your brain automatically pathways back to the first person that ever triggered these feelings in you, your ex.

Also, you romanticize how/why you guys broke up. The fact that you broke up is significant. Why you broke up is significant. But you'll likely figure that out on your own once you see each other again.

I'm against telling your girlfriend because I don't believe she deserves to be on tenterhooks while you figure this out.

Make firm the decision to break up with your current GF or not WITHIN TWO WEEKS. Don't drag it out. Don't be that guy.

Figure this out quickly.
posted by jbenben at 10:40 AM on November 26, 2011 [55 favorites]

You can roll with the toss and pitch of your emotions, or you can be mindful and deliberate. This is your responsibility. "But I WANNA" isn't the boss unless you let it be the boss.

Being true to yourself means enabling yourself to make decisions you can be proud of. If you can't stay true to yourself and meet her, then don't meet her.
posted by sadmadglad at 10:50 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless you're both insane, you've both changed in 8 years. Ruining two relationships in the hopes that your idealized, romantic mental images of the past could still become reality is likely to just result in four unhappy single people in the present. Sounds like you want to do it anyway.
posted by anildash at 10:54 AM on November 26, 2011 [18 favorites]

I'm with jbenben, keep you mouth shut for now, go meet with ex and DO NOT sleep with ex. The grass can seem greener but you both could be throwing away perfectly good relationships because of how you felt eight years ago. You don't mention what broke you up so there is no way to tell if that matters or not. It's very easy to idealize and romanticize past relationships and to ignore things that fit in with that view. Love is not just a noun; it's also a verb. - it's not just what you feel but what you do.

Be considerate of your current partners, don't drag this out, stay or go. If you decide to stay, defriend and cut all ties with ex.
posted by shoesietart at 10:56 AM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

We don't have a lot to go on here, but your involvement with this woman has left you in tears, turned you toward drinking for a while, and now seriously threatened your stable relationship. We can also suppose you suffer from rosy retrospection, because we all do.

Shut it down.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:57 AM on November 26, 2011

In this type of situation, making it into a stark choice of One or the Other adds to the confusion, desperation, and anxiety.

I would suggest that you ease into whatever choice you make. Why not talk on the phone with the old flame? Find out what she's been up to. Meet her for lunch in the middle of a busy day where nothing physical can happen.

Figure out what went wrong in that relationship, and what you value about your current relationship.

It's definitely possible to love two people at once, even if our monogamy-privileged culture doesn't always think so. But if you desire a monogamous relationship, you will have to choose at some point. Why not find out a bit more about what's going on first?
posted by 3491again at 10:58 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, seconding jbenben.
posted by 3491again at 10:59 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you care about how your current partner feels? Does she care about how her current partner feels? Probably not, if you're considering doing this.

What makes you think she would care about how you feel in a similar situation?

Consideration is extremely important. If a person cares about how you feel, and acts accordingly--that counts for a lot.

By the pattern of your behavior and her behavior, you are both people who don't care about how other people feel. Acting selfishly, chasing the abstract concept of love, you will find nothing but selfishness at the core of your actions, and hers.
posted by candasartan at 11:00 AM on November 26, 2011 [13 favorites]

Remember that life rarely mirrors romance comedies. If your expectation is that you're going to meet her and life is now going to be absolutely fantastic, don't expect your current girlfriend is going to be available if it all fails.

Seriously, be honest with your current girlfriend about your feelings with this other woman. This other woman is also either being honest or dishonest with her current relationship, which certainly wouldn't make me feel comfortable about pursuing someone who may have lied to their current partner about their real feelings.

Unless your current girlfriend is interested in anything other than monogamy, your first priority is to be honest with her before you do anything.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 11:00 AM on November 26, 2011

Leave your girl before you get anymore involved in any of this. As someone who has gone through this back-and-forth power struggle of feelings between me & the ex he thought was 'the one' -- it really isn't fair. And please don't expect me to have anything to do with you when this doesn't work out. I've had this happen to me twice.

The above strung me along for a few years and continues (to this week!) to attempt to contact me. The other took me aside at 2AM on a New Years morning, sat me in the middle of a frozen street while it snowed, and told me that God had show him his path in the form of helping the [then] recent tsunami victims in Asia instead of just telling me he wanted to try to work things out with his ex and that's why he wasn't going to be around.

No joke.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:02 AM on November 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

Being in love with exes is normal and fine. Doing something about it in this way is not fine.

Her her behavior is not loving, even though she professes to love you. If she really had a generous love for you--the kind of love that wants y you to be happy and healthy--she would have left you alone in your happy relationship. Nor is she being loving towards her current partner by keeping him in the wings.

Instead she has the mindset that strong feelings justify bad behavior. This is common in our culture but it's not a great quality for a partner in a healthy long-term relationship.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:20 AM on November 26, 2011 [36 favorites]

I definitely agree with yarly. What happened to separate you back then? It's essential to know this.
posted by devymetal at 11:24 AM on November 26, 2011

Looks like you've gotten an equal amount of "go" vs. "stay." Whatever you do, just don't sleep w/ the ex w/out telling your current partner what's up. Because regardless of whether you're making a mistake or not, you will definitely become an asshole if you do that. And so will your ex.

Whether you're ending the new relationship or the old one, don't start the next stage by causing more pain than necessary.
posted by emjaybee at 11:25 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go and meet her. Don't do anything stupid. Don't lie to your current partner, just stretch truths a little (i.e. "I am going to meet an old friend"). No one need get hurt here.

Soon enough you'll know if you want to be with her. I reckon you'll have both changed a lot, and once you get past the "good times we had" conversations, things won't feel so hot anymore.

You've got to explore this, for your own sanity. But do it carefully and keep in mind that emotions can lie. 8 years is a long time.

Good luck
posted by 0bvious at 11:26 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have nothing to suggest. I will say only that
1. Absence makes for imaginative romantic stuff
2. FaceBook has become a great enabler
posted by Postroad at 11:29 AM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Since you are not married, I would give it a shot, but don't be dishonest with your current GF: tell her now. Be prepared for this other person to be a completely different person then she was all those years ago. You may not be attracted to her at all.
posted by brownrd at 11:33 AM on November 26, 2011

A married ex came looking for me after five years apart and wreaked havoc on my life, his own and his ex wife's. I often wonder what compelled him to decide out of nowhere to willingly ruin everything that he had that was good in his life like that. I didn't get back together with him but the steps he took to 'explore what might have been' ruined his marriage. As many above say things to the effect of 'you have to do this or you'll regret it", I have to say if everything was fine in your life until she came back, you really don't have to do this. Other people are involved. It might be okay but it could be a recipe for all kinds of pain for everyone involved. "Dramaz" as someone said above. Emotions are already high via the-one-who-got-away, just add two other innocent parties. My advice--having been there--is don't do this.
posted by marimeko at 11:37 AM on November 26, 2011 [14 favorites]

If you value your happy, successful, positive long term relationship with a funny, talented, beautiful woman...

Do I "shut this down"


For a vast number of reasons, some of which people have articulated, a roughly zero chance of success with the old flame.

That aside, it's the stuff of legends and movies, but not moving on and carrying a torch for eight years feels childish.
posted by ambient2 at 11:40 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Lies of omission are still lies, and I consider this dishonesty as audacious and disrespectful as someone plainly staring into my face and merrily feeding me horeshit lines. I suggest you break up with your girlfriend if this is how you really feel, and let her find someone who truly loves her - she deserves that. But at the very least she deserves to know this so she knows where she stands. If you and your ex are both doing this behind respective partners backs you're probably a good fit.
posted by everydayanewday at 11:40 AM on November 26, 2011 [11 favorites]

Honestly, you've left out so many details that I don't feel comfortable commenting either way.

Why did ya'll break up? What curveball from life happened, what was the timeline and how did ya'll both react to events? Who made the decision to end things and why? Do you love your current SO? Would you feel about if you continued in your current relationship and ignored this person from your past? Could you even do that? Do you want to? What do you stand to lose by the loss of your current relationship?

The only thing that can be said with certainty is that if you and your old love get back together, it'll begin with tears and pain as you end current relationships to begin this new one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:44 AM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm surprised at some of the snarky comments here. Emotions are a complex thing and the poster is asking a pretty reasonable question. Those of you have calumnious comments to make about people you've never met. . . well you're weirdos.

Anyway, I kind of still love someone I separated from years ago (left the country for a long time, moved back to a different town, never go back there, etc etc), but I don't trust her or know who she is so I don't worry about it. In addition, I'm pretty happy in my life and with the woman I currently spend time with. If you were both single I'd give an unreserved thumbs up. As your situation is currently, I'd have to suggest you ask yourself what you really expect to get out of this. Where do you see this going, realistically ? Are you really going to be more happy risking what you have for an unknown? Are you thinking about this because you're currently unhappy? Is this going to pass or not? I don't think you should consider meeting up unless you are prepared to give up everything you've got.

Also, ask yourself what your current partner's expectations are? If you feel like you're doing something off center, you probably are.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 11:55 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Shut this down. Delete her from Facebook. Stay with your current partner.

Exploring the possibilities with this long-lost love seems like the height of foolishness and immaturity to me. You are in a long-term relationship that, by your account, is a great relationship. You should have more respect for your current partner and yourself than to let this old flame cause you to abandon what you're built with your current partner. You seem to regard your old feelings about this person as something that trumps even a great relationship that you've built up over the years. That makes no sense.

And as to those who counsel, "If you don't go to her, you will always wonder ..." or "you will always regret ..." --- there is nothing awful about always wondering. There are lots of things we always wonder about, paths we never took, people we never pursued a relationship with, etc. That's life. This super-dramatic, "life threw us a curveball, I drowned my sorrows in drink, I never got over her" [despite getting into a successful, happy, positive LTR] stuff is just childish.

I think these kinds of situations where people are tempted to abandon a wonderful current life to go back to an old flame are rather pathetic, desperate attempts to return to their youth. They do not regard it that way, but that's always the way it looks to me. It's abandoning one's current life and loyalties to chase a mirage of the past.

You can choose to be the mature, responsible adult whose loyalty is as solid as oak, to the long-term partner who loves you and depends on you. To throw that away, because someone sent you a damn Facebook message confessing lingering feelings for you is weak and childish ... come on, man, you're better than that, and you know it.
posted by jayder at 11:55 AM on November 26, 2011 [42 favorites]

Seconding Brandon Blatcher. There are so many details missing here that I can't answer the question. But some things jump out: after eight years neither one of you has moved on? That seems either pretty immature or looking through some pretty strong rose-colored glasses.

You describe the relationship as you dated for two years, broke up, and then you spiraled into several years of serious drinking? This strikes me as a very unhealthy way to move on with your life, although it sounds like you haven't moved on at all.

It seems like you're completely over-romanticizing this past relationship, and I think what you honestly should do is do some hardcore soul-searching about why you've been unable, after 8 years, to get over a 2-year relationship. Ask yourself why you're even in contact with this woman if you're in a happy relationship.

Importantly, ask if what you're doing is even remotely fair to your current girlfriend, and how you would feel if you knew she was having similar contact with an ex and weighing her options about you.
posted by kinetic at 11:56 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Shut this down. Delete her from Facebook. Stay with your current partner.

This is the only reasonable response here. Eight years on, attempting to upend your life by claiming to still love you is narcissistic at best, and certainly not very loving.
posted by ellF at 11:57 AM on November 26, 2011 [14 favorites]

So, this line in your question kind of jumped out at me:

"Do I "shut this down" and deny this bond I have with another woman for the sake of my own and others happiness."

Written this way, you say you are happy. Maybe it is just rhetorical, but again, you say that you are happy. Do you want to jeopardize happiness for the chance of... happiness? Because it isn't going to be euphoric bliss. It never, ever is. True love, soul mates, whatever you want to call it, it still is not going to be magical and glorious every second of every day. You'll have worries over work or money or kids or family and the thousands of other details that make up life. That initial infatuation stage is powerful and heady (when we think in terms like true love and soul mates), and it sounds like you are in it again.

You've also had eight years to idealize this person and now you've had some polite online interactions. Have you had any communication beyond "Hey, what's up? Happy birthday! Your job sounds interesting?" If not, what do you really know about the person this woman is now? What do you know about her current situation? Maybe she is in a happy stable relationship and is overwhelmed by her old feelings with you. Or maybe she's in an unhappy situation that she was talking up to make things sound just wonderful for the sake of pride with an old flame. She just chucked a bomb at you (via, if I am reading correctly, Facebook) that could very well detonate your current happiness. Why? Maybe she is still madly in love with you. Or maybe she feeds on drama. Maybe she's unhappy in her own situation and is idealizing your past in the same way you might be. Has she given any indication of why this and why now other than just announcing it?

(I agree with others that the reasons for the split may be important--moving across the country and fizzling is different than cheating/addiction/volatility, especially in speaking to motives now, but eight years is still eight years.)

You say you have feelings for her that never went away. Probably. I think a lot of us hold on to, if not the feelings, the echo of them from our past and think back on them with fondness. I still think about people from ten years ago every now and again and remember the good times we had, but those thoughts are fleeting and infrequent. How often did you think about her before you reestablished contact? If you are always going to wonder "what if?" beyond a fleeting thought once in a great while when something triggers a specific memory, well, that isn't fair to your current partner. I'd be pretty shattered if I thought the person that I loved was settling for me out of some sense of obligation.

All that aside, I still go back to you writing that you would be sacrificing your happiness to pursue this. That, to me, speaks volumes. As someone who reconnected with an old flame about five years after we'd last been in touch--and I was single and in my mid-20s at the time--I'd shut it down. Oh, before we actually tried it out again, there were butterflies and excitement and "Oh, it must be DESTINY!" thoughts. Once we actually spent time together, it became pretty clear why we didn't work in the first place, clarity that was missing in those early days of the thrill of reconnecting and remembering only the great things and the romance of trying to change what the past had dictated. Drop her a message telling her that you need to stop being in touch/this can't go any further, wish her the best and then defriend her and do not communicate further.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Something else is bothering you. This is why we bring drama into our lives--to avoid thinking about something else. I think you should focus on finding out what that other thing is.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2011 [15 favorites]

The only thing I can offer is some context from my own experience: as I've commented before, my mom and her HS boyfriend reunited after 14 years and it was the best thing that ever happened to them, and to me and my two brothers. Life is complex. The best you can do is try to be honest with yourself, and act respectfully and compassionately toward those around you. Good luck - what you're going through isn't easy.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

My feelings about the man I dated eight years ago before I met and married my husband have not changed, either, but I can tell you that I have, and he has, and that person who engenders all of those feelings doesn't exist anymore. That ex isn't a threat to my marriage even in the flesh because I understand that nostalgic love is not the real deal. You need to understand that, too.

If what you have with your current partner is the real deal, then don't jeopardize it by playing this game. If you're thinking "If I still have feelings for this past love, my feelings for my partner can't be true" than grow up. This is not a Hallmark movie; this is real life where humans have long histories, love in complexity and multiplicity and make choices.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:15 PM on November 26, 2011 [17 favorites]

Consider that you are still seeing her with the eyes of love, and in those last eight years you've no doubt romanticized what it would be like if the two of you got back together. Can the reality possibly live up to your fantasy? Be very, very careful that you do not project all the wonderful qualities and imaginings on her that you want her to have instead of seeing her as she is. You may remember yourselves as two people so hopelessly in love, yet you let each other get away once before and did not bother looking each other up for eight years. Since neither of you married our had children, it sure seems like you might have been more assiduous in getting back together if this was "meant to be."

You have little drama in your current relationship, and you seem to rub together well enough, which is nothing to sneeze at. But you reached out to your ex, and she to you. What does each of you think is missing in your current relationships? I know, you say it is just that you and the ex want to be together, but what made the two of you reach out to each other in the first place after all this time?

If you are just feeling a bit restless and "grass is greener", I can't see any good coming from hooking up with your ex. No relationship is perfect, because people aren't perfect. Including you. What are you bringing to the table? Work on reconnecting with your new partner (much easier to do if you AREN'T emotionally investing in this drama with the ex).

If there really are more serious problems (one wants to get married/have children/move away and the other doesn't) and you've just chosen to turn a blind eye because the status quo is the easiest route, the healthiest thing to do is break up with your current girlfriend, get your head together and make the life you want for yourself, and then look for the right person to complement that life and share it with you.

But you aren't going to do that. We all know that; just by having written this question you've clearly indicated you want to pursue your ex. I don't know what caused your first breakup, which you have deliberately glossed over here, but if you AND your ex are both doing all this clandestine Facebook stuff and seriously considering getting together, I'm wondering if infidelity was involved the first time around.

And now, here we are again. Tread carefully. My best advice to you is to try to hold yourself back from anything as impulsive as the either/or mindset. Meet your ex somewhere very public and "safe" and talk some things out in the bright light of day. Then step away from the internet and any communication with her and take a good hard look at your current relationship.

And when you do make a decision, please do not lead either one on or keep her on the back burner just in case you've made the wrong one.
posted by misha at 12:32 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

So you started down the romance pathway, it got cut short and now the feelings are still there waiting to get triggered.

If you had stayed with this person, you'd now be oogling someone else thinking they were the one. The romance chemicals wear off, then you either have a strong bond with the person you are with or you go off looking for another rush of romance.

If this person had the prerequisites to be your life partner, then why would you have left in the first place? Sure you can destroy a great relationship and go seeking after Nirvana. And when the romance drug wears off, what then?

Good luck with that.
posted by diode at 12:46 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don´t think it´s your current partners feelings you would be saving by auditioning your ex behind her back. Own up to your decisions whatever you choose.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:55 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm still in love with the guy who left me six years ago. Except he doesn't exist any more. 2011 guy is this totally other guy. I don't even want 2011 guy in my life. But 2005 guy? I can't tell you what I would do to have one more day with him. Except I'm 2011 me... so really I'd want to be 2005 me for another day and spend that day with 2005 guy...

Don't confuse your feelings for the person this woman used to be for today's reality.
posted by prefpara at 1:00 PM on November 26, 2011 [29 favorites]

I won't do so physically which would doubtless be the result if we were to meet.

Physical intimacy is not an inevitability. It's not like you just trip on a rug and accidentally end up sleeping together and wonder how it happened. You can choose whether or not to give and/or receive physical intimacy, but your framing of this makes it sound like you've already made that decision, which means that if you do decide to meet and heed the advice of people above saying that you shouldn't sleep together, you should meet in a public place not conducive to physical affection and inconvenient to sleeping-together locations.
posted by BlooPen at 1:14 PM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

that person who engenders all of those feelings doesn't exist anymore

This bears repeating.

Your ex is no longer the woman you were in love with eight years ago. You are no longer the man who loved her then. Eight years of life and experience and context have irrevocably changed both of you.

The relationship you had is over, and cannot be reanimated. If you're going to start a relationship with your ex, it will be a brand-new relationship, initiated by the people you are now, who are basically strangers.

Would you leave your current partner for a stranger? If the answer is no, that ought to be your answer now.
posted by jesourie at 1:17 PM on November 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

Regardless of your decision, I would definitely not characterize your level of emotional transgression as serious enough to warrant a break-up on that account alone. You haven't made any plans. You have been in contact with your ex, but you're working out a past issue that's never really gone away, as opposed to starting a new flirtation with a brand new person. Figuring this out in the most mindful way may actually be helpful in your current relationship, especially if it's been nagging you the whole time. This interaction with your ex, as long as you try to be responsible about it, could be anything from cathartic farewell to a red herring that exposes, say, deep issues you have with commitment which could have been brought on by almost anyone/anything even remotely seductive.
posted by devymetal at 1:36 PM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'll never be able to find the quote so I'll paraphrase. I think it was Anne Lamott who was talking about struggling with risky decisions when she was initially in recovery, and asking herself, 'Do I want the rush, or do I want the serenity?'

Which do you want?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:03 PM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Break up with your partner.

I couldn't care less what you do after that, but she doesn't deserve to be your second choice.
posted by araisingirl at 2:08 PM on November 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

Be careful about the power of "one true love"... this woman has an incredible power over you... so be careful. I know of an amazing and true man who met this girl, and loved her to bits , it didn't matter that she had a lot of problems, didn't want to have sex with him, had lots of anger. They had a 5 year platonic marriage (to his despair) and then a divorce, remained VERY close friends... a few years later, during a nervous breakdown she wanted to get back together (he was safe and secure)- he said no. When she got better and he wanted to get back together SHE said no.

They stay friends. This "love" relationship has gone on for over a decade... he's never moved on... he's fast losing the chance to have a family and be a father and husband. No woman has ever been able to compete.... And nobody ever meant any harm by any of it... but the idea that you can only be happy with one woman has stripped him of so much, given much heartache, and a lot of pain.
posted by misspony at 2:17 PM on November 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

If you really want to do this right, this is the order in which things should be done (in my opinion) to do the right and responsible thing. If at any step things break down, then you are right where you should be with no regrets or problems.

1. Break up with your girlfriend. If things were really good between you two, you wouldn't have already been looking at your other options. That relationship is done, you just haven't finalized it yet.

2. After breaking up with your girlfriend, wait until after the new year. There's something about these back-to-back holidays that make people all wistful and sentimental, trolling through Facebook to find some magical past when everything was wonderful. Someone should do a study about this phenomena.

3. In the new year, tell the woman from the past that you are single and that she should be single if she wants something with you. You don't want to be her #2, do you?

4. After she is single, wait a few months for her to get on her feet. Independent, her own place to live, and over her ex-boyfriend.

5. After she has been single and independent for several months, commence with the new relationship.
posted by Houstonian at 2:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Go over to your girlfriend right now and tell her EXACTLY what you told us. Print out the thread and hand it to her. How do you thinks he's going to feel about that? She's probably going to feel terrible. Heartbroken. Hurt. She may even leave you and spiral into a black hole of depression because her boyfriend of X years was hung up on another woman, and never really loved her, no matter how hard she tried to make him happy and build a life together, and is now throwing it all back in her face so he can frolic about with his old flame.

She might feel as bad as you did when you and your ex broke up.

Do you want to KNOWINGLY, DELIBERATELY inflict that kind of suffering on someone whose only mistake was to agree to a relationship with you?

I'm not saying that you need to stick with her for the rest of your life, if your feelings aren't with your current girlfriend. I am saying that you owe it to her to let her know what's going on with you, so she can make an informed decision about her relationship.
posted by mornie_alantie at 2:35 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Consider the way you're framing this situation to yourself. Your post gives the impression you're thinking of this as high drama, swept along by Fate or whatever. You're apart because "life throws a nasty curveball and it all ends in tears" (the breakup was an act of nature?). It's all about whether to "pursue and risk everything for the possibility that she is the person I truly love" (so you don't truly love your current girlfriend?). Sex with your old girlfriend would "doubtless be the result" if you were to meet. (It would just "be the result", huh? You have no control over it?)

This is not a movie and not a story. You drive your own life and you are responsible for your own actions. Your current girlfriend is a real person with real feelings. If I were her and read this, I'd feel terribly hurt and betrayed. I would also very much question your maturity and level-headedness. Look, everyone wonders "what if". I'm just saying take it down a notch, and think calmly and carefully before throwing away a good real life for a fantasy.
posted by asynchronous at 2:46 PM on November 26, 2011 [26 favorites]

I'm with devymetal all the way on this. I think you are working out an old transaction, and what you describe doesn't sound as though it rises to the level of cheating (yet) unless you left out a lot.

I also agree with everyone that you are overly romanticizing a lot of this, but I touched upon that in my first answer above.

- OP. You are not married to your current girlfriend. I believe you deserve some privacy to work through this. I recommended a timeline of a few weeks. I hope you can process through even faster.

- Telling your current partner about this right now would be (a) a supremely cruel mindfuck for your current GF, and (b) will really muddy the waters in your life. Your emotions are already pretty murky, don't make it worse! Be methodical as you deal with this. I think you would do better to figure yourself out and break up with your current GF in a week's time or so, rather than blurting out this whole complicated mess right now and blowing up everyone's emotions. Figure yourself out first, then you'll know if/what to say to your current GF.

- IMHO, stuffing your emotions down will not work.

This is like an old bill you haven't paid that has gone into collections. It's not going away anytime soon, so you might as well deal with it once and for all.

Likely you will not end up with your Ex, but you need to see her and find out. Don't sleep with her. Just Don't.

And if you must sleep with your EX, then I am wrong and everyone telling you to
break up with your current GF is SPOT ON.

posted by jbenben at 3:55 PM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

There are two philosophies to this. One is to follow your heart, whatever it tells you. The other is to commit to what you already have, taking it through to the end. We all have these kinds of internal struggles, and I don't think anyone can presume to tell you to go one way or another.

In this context you are a free agent. Choose wisely. Either way, you will lose a future yet again. I do not recommend getting drunk over it, e.g. repeating history. I do recommend finding a good counselor or therapist, now if possible; they are very effective in helping people clarifying personal problems, and based on how/what you've written, they could be of assistance to you.
posted by polymodus at 5:12 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is always the possibility that you guys will meet up and you will realize that you totally DON'T love her anymore. Then you REALLY won't be nursing any lingering What Ifs and If Onlys. If I were you, I'd go. In my own experience, it is VERY HARD to just....pretend this exchange never happened. Either you'll realize how much you love your current SO, or you'll realize you don't, and either way, that's information you need to have, especially given that you aren't married.

Also, what jbenben said.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:33 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Shut down your Facebook for a week. Spend time with your girlfriend and decide if you want to stay with her or not. Then decide what to do about your ex. But buyer beware.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:37 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Regardless of what you should do, there is one thing it might help to accept before you do anything.

Your ex's behavior is cowardly.

Yeah, I said it. It is as if she wants to do something but wants an accomplice - you - to pull the trigger. Just so we are clear - the respectful thing for her to do - her, on her own - is accept that she has conflicted feelings about you and her current partner. And then for her to decide what to do about her current partner. Like tell him, or recommit to him, or break up with him. All that is on her. It's between her, and him. Maybe even her therapist. And some trusted confidantes. You don't even come into it. You're nowhere near it.

It's not clear that she did that. That being the difficult work, of taking responsibility for how she acts, and what she says, regardless of how she feels.

Instead, from your post, it sounds like she decided to defer doing what she needs to do, and instead do the easy/fun/drama fueled thing - and get you all caught up in it, which means she doesn't have to take personal responsibility for tending to or ending the relationship she decided to be in with that other guy.

But you turn up those dimmer mood lights, shut off the circa 2003 love songs, stop thinking about how sweet her hair smelled and how great the lovin' was, accept that most people over the age of 15 have strong nostalgic 'what coulda been' fuzzies over everything from the girl they didn't date, to the trip they didn't take, to the apple stock they didn't buy...but you wipe all those cobwebs away and all that's left is some regular person who's okay with taking both of your relationships down, by not admitting to you or herself that by her actions, and inactions, she's okay with taking both of your relationships down.

Because of all the self absorbed things to do, and all the selfish ways to do it, the "I know I'm/you're in a relationship, but I've got these feelings for you, and of all the things I could do, I'mma just going to go put that out there to you and see what you do about it (perhaps even as I tell you that I don't expect you to do anything about it)" is about as I'm-an-emotionally-atrophied-child-in-an-adult's-body-tee-hee! behavior as one can muster. And you not seeing it as such is what would raise this situation to greek tragedy status.

So claim the respectful adult spot, and decide what you want, before you do anything at all. Your ex decided to hedge her bets. Don't do that. Don't react. Act. If you want to explore the possibility of your ex, don't hedge your bets - do it. But that probably means ending it with your current girlfriend. At the very least, it might mean telling her, and letting her decide what she wants to do. Accept that's the price of your actions to remain a decent, respectful adult. Or accept that you might make the choice to shut the ex down before somehow getting rid of the itchy feelings towards her, and take steps to deal with the feelings - therapy, perhaps? But don't do the, "let me go see if seeing the ex explodes feelings of love and lust before I make a decision to end it with my current girlfriend" option. That's just icky, because you either lead on the ex who you will have to shut down later, or you string along the current girlfriend. That's selfish behavior too. Maybe what you've got with the ex can be true love, 'better' than what you currently have - but if you're going to do it, do it right.
posted by anitanita at 8:56 PM on November 26, 2011 [11 favorites]

It sounds like you're going to do it and you want Internet Permission.

No. You should not meet. No Internet Permission for you. You'll be flying IP-free on this one.

I hope it works out for you somehow anyway, one way or another.
posted by Kwine at 9:14 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

You know, some people here have made a distinction that since you're not all officially married, you should not talk to your partner now about your feelings about this right now.

I say, fuck that.

As someone whose marriage (a gay one) is recognized in some places and not others, I think I'm qualified to say that the commitment you have made to your partner is more important than any that might have been all properly bureaucratized with the State. The pieces of paper I got from Canada and, eventually, the state of California, that said You Are Now A Real Couple did not change the commitment I had made to her before we got those piece of paper.

So no, you don't get to not tell her what process is happening for you that will affect her just because you don't have a piece of paper from your jurisdiction. If you have made a commitment to her, and she knows about it, you owe it to her as a decent human being to talk to her about what's happening with you. Give yourself enough time to be coherent, but don't think - contrary to what some here seem to think - that you don't owe her (and yourself!) the respect of talking with her about what's happening with you. Ideally, you have this respect and commitment in place even without a piece of paper that makes you an official couple in the eyes of the state. Please keep that in mind. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 10:28 PM on November 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

It is easy to fall in love. It is difficult to build a relationship.

Once you start down the road of believing you can "trade up" in relationships, you are destroying the foundation to any good relationship ever. You can always trade up partners. People are a depreciable asset. They get old, wrinkly, fat, whatever.

But a relationship only gets deeper and more rich with time.
posted by politikitty at 10:33 PM on November 26, 2011 [13 favorites]

Okay, so here's the thing. None of us commenting here knows what would actually happen if you made one choice versus the other (or if you figured out some third possible choice that you're not even considering right now). You don't know what would happen. No one can know what would happen.

You might stay with your current partner and think, in twenty years, that you are so grateful and relieved that you did so. Your feelings of yearning for this older lover might subside and fade and pale in comparison to the more steady, day by day warmth of your current partner. Or you might decide to stay with your current partner in the hopes that this will happen and instead find yourself miserable, gnawed by perpetual dissatisfaction and wondering what if...

Or you might rekindle your old romance and find that it's wonderful and amazing and solid and real. Or you might try that and discover that it all comes crashing down around you.

No one can tell you what will happen based on what you choose. That's the terrifying, exhilarating thing about life. You have to choose. My advice would be to make the choice, and to also choose to accept the consequences of that choice, whatever they are.

Good luck.
posted by overglow at 10:36 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with jbenben that you probably need to see your ex without sleeping with her in order to try to figure this out. But those who are saying the people who loved each other 8 years ago no longer exist are absolutely right. I once spent some time with a guy who I'd been completely hung up on several years ago and was shocked to find out we didn't even really like each other that much anymore, let alone love each other. I found him terribly immature and boring and he found me to be an insufferable snob. It was such a surprise because just a few years previously we had been wonderful companions to each other.

Then there was my former best friend who I fell out with and missed for many years. When we tried being friends again I found out she had completely lost her mind in the intervening years and needed much more help than I was able to give her.

People change - they really, really do.
posted by hazyjane at 12:04 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're happy in your current relationship, you wouldn't be entertaining these thoughts so - as others have said - you should work out what is bothering you or making you unhappy and discuss this with your partner.

Secondly exes are exes for a reason - they should be left where they belong: in the past. And if you think that love is the only thing which doesn't go away with time, remember that in rekindling an old relationship you are at risk of reigniting all of the old arguments, hang-ups and issues which split you in the first place. Do you really want to go through all of that again? Sounds exhausting!

Ultimately though, it's not our decision and we have no idea of the outcome, but I got back in contact with my 'first love' 20 years later and expected him to have mellowed with age and for it to all work out - and it didn't.
posted by veebs at 12:54 AM on November 27, 2011

You have a happy, stable relationship. You have a yearning for a previous relationship that never got quite resolved. You may want to see if there's a way to get the old relationship again, but not jeopardize the current relationship. I think you've already realized that your current relationship isn't what you want. Be honest, tell current GF that you've friended an old flame, and are having serious doubts about current relationship, and longings fo rold flame.

Sometimes, people get back together and it really works. Try really hard to minimize the collateral damage.
posted by theora55 at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2011

I'm just remembering the 5 or so times I met up with someone I broke up with and walked away saying, "oh, yes, I remember now." I imagine that's what will happen to you.
posted by jander03 at 3:27 PM on November 27, 2011

I'm just remembering the time I did get back together with an ex who'd re-contacted me and wound up six months later kicking myself because I'd broken up with him the first time for good reason.
posted by Lexica at 4:27 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had an awesome relationship that ended in tears when I was 18. It was pretty intense. We broke up and had our own (zillion) relationships for about 5 years, while I was in another country. We met without romantic expectations about 3 years ago, and now we're happily married.

So, this relationship could have a happy ending.

FWIW, he had a girlfriend when we agreed to meet as friends. He broke up with her as soon as he realized we were "it".
posted by Tarumba at 4:28 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

And yes, we were both very different, but in our case we were more mature and our differences were far less deal-brakerish.

We had changed, but for the better.

I advie you to definitely give it a go, but be completely honest with your girlfriend. Tell her you have this chance, you're not sure how you feel, and go meet your ex. Your current girlfriend has the right to know what's going on!
posted by Tarumba at 4:32 PM on November 27, 2011

I advie you to definitely give it a go, but be completely honest with your girlfriend. Tell her you have this chance, you're not sure how you feel, and go meet your ex. Your current girlfriend has the right to know what's going on!

I don't see how anyone can really advise telling your girlfriend what's up while you're off to meet your old lover, so she can sit there twiddling her thumbs waiting to find out whether you've "picked her." That would be so incredibly cruel.

Just dump her if you're going to take any steps in reconnecting with this old flame.
posted by jayder at 4:52 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


She was married and I did not want to ruin her life. She was older than me, had a child, we were very different- but we clicked on a level that I'd never reached before. I tried to fight it, but I knew it wouldn't go anywhere, right?
I married someone else, moved to another country for 10 years, got divorced, had some short term and a longer term thing...could not stop thinking about her. I figured she had forgotten about me.

Eventually, I had to know.
In either the most dicked-out move or the most heroic thing I've ever done, I sent her a note at work. She called me.
She hadn't forgotten me.
Not at all.
She was coming to Vegas for a family thing, would I be able to meet there? Yes, I would, it turns out.
And now, 8 years later, she's in the kitchen of the house we own together, our foster kid is going to bed, got married last year...and everybody survived! Nobody melted or evaporated because we did this. It made me a better man and maybe saved her from some stuff.

there is no tl/dr! Just know that it might blow up in your face, you might regret it for the rest of your life....but if you don't see her, you'll definitely regret that.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 9:10 PM on November 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

To add my voice to the poll...I'm with jbenben.

Do go meet her, and stay away from any couch, bed, pillow, park, or any cosy place in sight. In fact, I suggest you meet in a church.

Do not tell your girlfriend, the high risk of drama is not worth it given how unpredictable the result of the encounter is. After all, eight years are too many to be sure how you would react to one another. Also, take good care that your girlfriend won't find out by chance what you're up to : I bet it would lead to drama. If you have connections in the secret services, you may want to ask for advice there :-)

Depending on what you learn from the encounter, you may be able to make a decision. Now is too soon.

Alternatively, you may also try to live the life of a novel character. Or the life of Chateaubriand. With Juliette Recamier reigning alone upon your heart, and half of Paris in your bed. We'd still read those novels 200 years from now.
posted by that_guy at 3:14 PM on December 8, 2011

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