Two men- what to do?
July 17, 2012 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose between the men in my life.

I have a couple of men in my life. The most important are A, who lives in California and B, who lives in NYC. I live in NYC.

A is coming to visit NYC around Labor Day for three or four days.

A is my ex-boyfriend, who I had a strange relationship with in another country for about a year. We had a falling out in a different country from the one we were living in (we went on vacation together) and I ended up being pretty messed up for a couple months afterwards. A drinks a lot of alcohol. I do not. A and I talk on the phone almost every night.

B is the guy I'm seeing but we are not exclusive yet. B recently had a girl visit him in NYC while I was away on vacation and told me about it after the fact. He informed me they didn't "do anything." I see B almost every weekend and sometimes even on the weekdays. B does not drink a lot of alcohol.

If A was living in NYC, I wouldn't even have to ask a question. I'd choose A (I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing).

tl;dr A is coming to visit me (or NYC, it's not clear). I plan on being intimate with him (I'm already intimate with B). Should I be intimate with him? Should I tell B (before or after)? Help. And sorry to bother you all with this trivial nonsense.
posted by commitment to Human Relations (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why does B have to know if you aren't exclusive with B?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:47 AM on July 17, 2012

Tell B before. These both sound like catch and release to me.
posted by Rubbstone at 9:48 AM on July 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

I guess B doesn't have to know since we aren't exclusive, but I just felt like he told me about the girl that stayed with him and told me they didn't "do anything," I should return the favor and tell him? Probably some misguided sense of honor.
posted by commitment at 9:50 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

When you have trouble deciding between two potential mates, the answer is usually neither.
posted by Dynex at 9:51 AM on July 17, 2012 [54 favorites]

i'm guessing this is a sockpuppet since you have no other question or comments under this username.

that said, your username says something about how you are thinking about these men.

it doesn't sound like either of them is thinking of you in that way.

if you are not sure if A is coming to see you or the city, that doesn't sound like commitment. that sounds like a weekend fling with someone who you talk to a great deal on the phone, perhaps a friends with benefits thing.

B sounds like someone you spend a lot of time with but who is also not committed to you.

i think you don't need to choose between these two men, but rather you need to choose if you want the types of relationships they are offering you or if you want something different.

it sounds like they are both causing you a great deal of anxiety and emotional turmoil.

do you want something more than what they are offering? if not, then just be up front with both of them that you are not exclusive.

if you are not willing to do that, then these might not be situations you should be in anyways.

also, on preview, B told you after the fact.
posted by sio42 at 9:52 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you're not exclusive with someone then there's no issue here. You don't have to tell B anything.

Not sure why B felt the need to tell you that he met with, but didn't hook up with a girl, though.

If your issues with A are unresolved but you've just been apart long enough to dull the anger you had, then maybe hooking up with him is a bad idea. Seems you still have strong feelings for him, though, which make poor decision-making very likely.
posted by inturnaround at 9:52 AM on July 17, 2012

Find someone near you who you feel more strongly about than A or B.
posted by John Cohen at 9:54 AM on July 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

If a guy was asking if he should or should not be intimate with two people at the same time and asking whether he should or should not be open about it, I'd say yes, he should be clear with either party. I feel like enough people will sort of assume you're going to tell them if you're involved physically with more than one person that you should actually just be honest. There is no reason not to, because if B is going to be a pain in the ass, then I'm not sure what the point of being with him would be. You're pretty clearly not prudish, so just be honest. It doesn't cost you anything you aren't already totally okay with losing, it seems.

I'm not sure telling B *beforehand* will do you or him any good, because if he's going to stew and be a pain in the ass about it, then it's just going to elongate that time period. You should certainly be clear with B about whatever happens with A (which hasn't happened yet, and is just a plan) before you are intimate with him again. People have the right to reject the scenario where they are involved with x number of people at once (whatever that number is for each person is clearly that person's business).
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:55 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would choose A because you are not done with him, you have yet to be dragged to the point of Enough with him, and this might be the occasion that accomplishes that, and plus he'll split soon thereafter. A = more desire, less smaller window for pain, excellent distance, glimmer of hope of breaking free. You sound kind of bored about B.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:58 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Choose in what sense? The forever-and-ever sense? The date exclusively and see what happens sense? Something else?

It seems to me that the details you give about each guy and each relationship boil down to "which of these is less terrible?" Which is a pretty rotten way to frame choosing between two people. If this is really how you think of them, the answer should be "neither."
posted by rtha at 10:00 AM on July 17, 2012

These two guys both sound pretty meh for different reasons. I honestly don't think it matters whether you get back with your ex; you're already pretty enmeshed with him emotionally. You will be risking things with your NYC guy but you don't sound thrilled with him anyway.

Be extra careful about protection with both of them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:03 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I freely admit that I basically always answer "neither" to questions that are posed this way. People need to be considered in the singular. Is A the right person to pursue something serious with? It doesn't sound like it. Is B the right person to pursue something serious with? It doesn't sound like it. Are you in a position to pursue something not-serious with either of them? Not A, certainly. And based on the fact that you're thinking of this as choosing between two men, it sounds like maybe not B either.

Not to advise doing the Kelly Taylor or anything, but I recommend you choose yourself.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:07 AM on July 17, 2012 [12 favorites]

A is probably not good for you, but you also aren't done with him and you should probably find a way to be done with him. That doesn't mean you shouldn't see him, mind, but it's something to think about.

I mean, read your question again and ask yourself why you're framing this as a choice to make, since neither choice precludes the other. You're not exclusive with B and there's no chance of much more than a tumble with A, but it sounds like a tumble you'd like to have.

Use protection and be smart. Be aware that, as far as your ex is concerned, this is a multi-day booty call, and that it's okay to have that if you want to.

Tell B about it after the fact, and only if it comes up in conversation. If you're not exclusive then he needs to accept the possibility that you're off banging someone else sometimes, but it would still be weird if you flat-out told him that you were going to nail someone else.

In short, you don't owe either man anything. You have two casual things that don't necessarily need to be headed anywhere. So for now, have fun and let them be casual.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:12 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with a lot of the advice above -- with the caveat that sometimes "choosing yourself" doesn't have to mean not having fun with somebody in the moment -- but only if you are capable of realizing that these relationships are casual and not get more emotionally attached then is wise (which, given what you've told us here, means that you shouldn't get too emotionally attached at all -- and certainly may not be possible for you given your past with A and any sort of long term thoughts you may have with B)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:13 AM on July 17, 2012

See A when he visits, then cut it off. Date B until you get tired of it. Neither of these seem to have long term potential. That's okay.
posted by spaltavian at 10:24 AM on July 17, 2012

sio42, some more details for you. One of the points of contention between A and me was that he wasn't willing to come visit me. It does sound like a friends with benefits thing (and we were friends with benefits before we became boyfriend and girlfriend) but I guess like thinkpiece and FAMOUS MONSTER say I'm not done with A. But it kind of feels like a big deal that A is willing to come to NYC.

B has met a number of people in my family, including my parents and my grandmother. However, B and I have not had a lot of discussion about our future together.

A knows about B, but B doesn't really know about A.

B told me that "a friend" was going to go touring with him while I was on vacation but he deliberately left it vague and led me to think it was a guy doing something different with him that he had told me about earlier. After his friend had left he told me it was a girl.

John Cohen, I'd love to meet someone who I felt more strongly about... but that's how I met B in the first place.

rtha, I guess I wasn't really thinking about in what sense. A is tall and pretty good-looking. He's a little shy and has a somewhat strange sense of humor but he can be very sweet. B isn't as tall but he's good-looking in his own way. He's pretty earnest but very laid-back. He's sweet too. I probably should've included some of these details in the original post.

the young rope-rider and FAMOUS MONSTER thank you for your advice about using protection.

Thank you everybody for all your advice!
posted by commitment at 10:33 AM on July 17, 2012

A is visiting, you plan to be intimate with him -- you answered your first question. Whether or when you tell B depends on your intention or ability to continue to see, speak with, or sleep with either man. I personally would want to know if my partner is sleeping with someone else, but then again I don't believe B. On the flip side I doubt you'll ever see A again, and if you are pinning your hopes on him you may find yourself repeating your last breakup. Frankly, the whole thing sounds messy.

But honestly, I think you are asking the wrong questions.
posted by sm1tten at 10:34 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might as well have some fun with A, but it doesn't sound like your relationship with B is going anywere. He's still seeing other people and frankly, so are you.

I'd cut B as a boyfriend based on that. See A, but unless you see yourself moving to be with him, or he makes a decision to move to be with you, I don't see a whole lot of future there either.

The fact that you mention alcohol consumption leads me to believe that this is an issue for you. When you say "Lots of alcohol" is that a drunk-dial situation? Do you think he has a problem? It's an odd thing to mention if it's not a problem.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:38 AM on July 17, 2012

sm1tten, I think you're right. I am asking the wrong questions. The problem is, I don't really know what the right questions are to ask.

Ruthless Bunny, I considered moving to California, but most of my family is in the Northeast. The alcohol consumption is hard to say. I don't really know if he has a problem with alcohol. I don't think it's a drunk-dial situation. He doesn't seem to get into any trouble, and he never beat me up while we were together. But it was an issue for my mother and when my therapist learned about it she talked about high-functioning alcoholics.
posted by commitment at 10:48 AM on July 17, 2012

I would just like to point out that you used the word 'strange' associated with A twice, and that the only personal fact you included in your question about him is that he drinks a lot of alcohol. Are you SURE you want to continue to be emotionally enmeshed with this guy? I really think you should not have him visit and focus your attentions on finding someone way better.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:49 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

p.s. the idea here at AskMe is to try to sit back and receive the answers to your question without responding unless there is some necessary information that needs to be added.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:50 AM on July 17, 2012

Do not move for this guy. Just do not. He isn't visiting for you, he's visiting for some other reason and letting you think it's about you because he knows that's what you want.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:51 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I guess like thinkpiece and FAMOUS MONSTER say I'm not done with A. But it kind of feels like a big deal that A is willing to come to NYC.

This is a crumb. It's a fairly common thing when someone's on the hook: Offer a crumb of hope or encouragement, and to a starved heart it will seem like a banquet.

It feels like a big deal because you want it to. You know what, I'm gonna be honest: I've hooked up with exes before, but never when either of us still had feelings for the other (or, more specifically, hopes that the newly reignited thing had a future). He wants to come and fuck and you seem to want that and more. This means you'll be looking for encouragement in everything he does. I mean, you already are.

A knows you plan on being intimate with him. He knows his lack of visiting was a point of contention. If he had the same hopes for this encounter that you do, he'd have already said something about trying to rekindle things. He hasn't.

Something else to consider: Labor Day is a month and a half from now. What happens if B wants to go exclusive between now and then? Would you seriously tell him you'd be down for that but only after Labor Day so you can fuck your ex?

Basically, it doesn't sound like there's a lot of reason to invest much in either dude, so I'd say to keep everything casual, have whatever fun you like, and keep an eye on your heart.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:53 AM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't have to "choose" because neither guy has chosen you yet. Have a fling with A if you like; it would be optimal to tell B, even though you and he aren't exclusive, just in the interests of openness.

It's okay to sleep with more than one person at a time, as long as everyone is aware and okay with it, and you're taking safer sex precautions. Choose to do what feels right for you.

I have to say I was a little o_O that "tall" seems to be such a key quality for you in partners. My husband is 6'3" and I never describe him as "tall" unless someone specifically asks about his height because it's not at all important to me. That said, I suppose I might be kink-shaming, so my apologies if that is the case.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:55 AM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

The #1 thing that stands out to me is that you have absolutely zero good things to say about the qualities of either Man A or Man B. You say how you *feel* about them, sure, but you list exactly zero good qualities about either of them. When I care about someone, I am really likely to speak highly of the things they do that make them special to me.

You have not provided enough information about Man A for me to say he has a drinking problem but it's clearly something that's on your mind a lot. In my relationships, I have never dated someone and felt the need to explain their drinking to others. It's a big red flag that you are concerned in this way.

You also seem to be explaining away Man B's weird behavior. "If it was innocent, why did he tell me now?" Again, we don't have a lot of context, but it sounds like you don't fully trust Man B. You can rationalize away that he did nothing wrong because you haven't had the commitment talk yet and nothing really happened, yada, yada. But the time for the commitment talk is beyond ripe if you're having these types of misunderstandings. To avoid the already overdue talk now because Man A is coming to town is choosing convenience over honesty.

The resolution is simple but takes courage to talk openly. To Man B, before the visit: "When you told me about your friend after the fact, that was okay because we have not agreed to be monogamous yet. When/if we do want to be monogamous, that behavior would have made me feel betrayed. As it is, right now I would like to keep seeing other people and possibly have protected sex outside the two of us as well. I expect you will be safe also. I want you to feel comfortable talking to me if you think this situation should change or if there's any risk from being unsafe."

To Man A, before having sex: "I'm seeing other people right now, but we have talked about keeping it open for the time being. I don't see us getting back together, but a short fling will be fun. I expect you're seeing other people, too, are you being safe those times?"

Do these conversations sound like buzz kills? Awkward? Stilted? That's the price of being ethical and still having awesome fun times. It's a bargain basement low price if you think about the alternative of bad communication, hurt feeelings and compromised safety.
posted by Skwirl at 10:57 AM on July 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's nothing to choose between, is there? You've got one guy you're dating casually and another guy doing a transcontinental booty call. It doesn't sound like the booty call with A will be a deal breaker to the casual thing with B.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 AM on July 17, 2012

It doesn't sound like you're very invested in your relationship with B. But how can you be? You're still carrying a torch for A, and you're talking to him every night. I think this is a bad idea.

I've known several people who have been in situations similar to yours. Here's what has happened 100% of the time. They kept talking and talking to their version of A. They dated other people, sure, but they never really let themselves get invested in any other relationship. They couldn't give the people they were dating much attention, because they were always really waiting for the call from A saying "it's time, we can be together now." This call never came.

Listen, I'm really sorry, and I know this isn't what you want to hear, but I think your only viable option here is to not see A when he visits NY, and to stop talking to him immediately. Maybe you should break up with B, but you'll never know as long as A is occupying all of this space in your brain. A has hurt you in the past, and will continue to do so. He likes having you on the hook. If fact, I'll bet that he planned his NY visit because he knows about B and he could feel you slipping away. He's never going to the person you want. He's never going to give you the relationship that you want. He's just going to steal years of your life and make it very difficult to get involved with anyone else.

Sorry to put this so stridently, but I've seen this happen to too many people, and I'm tired of it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:11 AM on July 17, 2012 [19 favorites]

John Cohen, I'd love to meet someone who I felt more strongly about... but that's how I met B in the first place.

The point of my comment was to say you're spending all your time focusing on these two men who you're both lackluster about, when you could be spending your time finding someone new — not A, not B, but C. Your response is … to focus on B.

See the problem?

The whole framing and focus of your question is off. You're talking about how one drinks alcohol, while the other doesn't. One is tall; the other isn't very tall. All these details you're giving us are much less important than the fact that neither A nor B is a good choice for you.

As multiple commenters have tried to tell you, the answer to "A or B?" is a resounding "Neither!"
posted by John Cohen at 11:12 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think you should clear up if A is in fact coming to see you in particular or just coming to NYC. I don't think it's fair to B that you are talking to A on the phone every night (as, on preview, I see Ragged Richard says above). I can't really imagine things with A are going to work out well given what you've said above. So if it were me I would try to drop A and stay with B, if I did in fact like B. The fact that the characteristics you mention about them are mostly physical and not about their personalities/how they make you feel doesn't make me think you like either of them that much as people though.
posted by mlle valentine at 11:15 AM on July 17, 2012

B told me that "a friend" was going to go touring with him while I was on vacation but he deliberately left it vague and led me to think it was a guy doing something different with him that he had told me about earlier. After his friend had left he told me it was a girl.

Well, to be fair, you talk nearly every night to a guy who you are planning on being intimate with when he comes to town. You're not exactly being forthcoming about a major relationship in your life. He doesn't know about this relationship, and I bet if he did your relationship would cease to be, as it's clear you're actively pursuing another major romantic interest.

I think you need to be honest with B before A gets here so he can realize he's not in the running. Non-exclusivity generally (unless you've established polyamory as a thing that you are pursuing) means casual dating, not someone you'd consider moving for and are talking to every night. That kind of secret is a lot different than a few dates or sleeping with someone else; there's a big emotional connection involved and one that clearly preceeds and overshadows your relationship.

Tell B so he can make a conscious decision about what he wants from you.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 11:23 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wrote the above comment before seeing OP's reply on refresh with regards to good qualities of A and B like height and senses of humor...

It's awkward that there hasn't been a commitment/monogamy talk yet but you've been with Man B long enough to have met his family (!). When Man B withheld information from you, you appear to have felt betrayed even if you could rationalize it away. He acted like he felt guilty and probably also rationalized it away. All of this anxiety and ambiguity is easily solved. If I had to guess, it sounds like you're both on the same page with regards to (lack of) monogamy right now, but the problem is that you have to guess in the first place.

"What can I get away with," is no base for a relationship of any kind.

What are the right questions to ask? "What do I want out of a relationship right now? Sex? Fun? Comfort? Marriage potential?" ... "What type of partner is healthy for me? Does drinking matter to me? Passion? Honesty? How do these things rank for priorities?" ... "What are the benefits for me of seeing many people vs. one person vs. being alone?" ... "Am I capable of being in a committed relationship while still being emotionally committed to my ex? What is more important to me, staying in contact with the ex or being mentally present and emotionally available to someone new?" ... "What areas of my life am I neglecting while pursuing relationships?"
posted by Skwirl at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Before I got to the stuff about B, my thought: things with A sound very much like they are unhealthy and do not serve your best interests.
posted by ambient2 at 1:21 PM on July 17, 2012

A is comfortable to you because you've known him for a while, but it doesn't sound like you're thrilled about him. Even though you talk to A every night, it doesn't sound like he's very committed to you or any sort of romantic relationship you'd have together. A has not been willing to come see you. You don't even sound sure that he's coming to NYC now to see you and not just see the city. I just wouldn't get my hopes up too much here if I were you.

It also sounds like you're willing to string B along if you can't find someone else to focus your attention on. So he vacationed with a female friend. You say you guys aren't exclusive, plus he told you he didn't sleep with her, plus sometimes people have opposite gender friends that don't make their unterhosen wiggle. It happens. B may just not be comfortable with an undefined level of commitment in your relationship, or he may have been doing something shady with this girl. Either way, I'd bet he doesn't want to assume the wrong level of intimacy/commitment with you.

Even if you do sleep with A, you should tell B just because of safety issues. You don't need to give all the details of your relationship if he doesn't ask for them. Just say "I hooked up with an old friend of mine." I'd certainly want to know even if it was a FWB situation. You sound much more emotionally invested in A, and that's something I'd want to know if I were dating someone. As it is, it could be very easy for B to see you as keeping him on the back burner in case A doesn't reciprocate in the way you want. That's a big dealbreaker for me, even in a casual arrangement, but other people might see it differently.

Honestly, these guys both sounds like scrubs. You can do better.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:28 PM on July 17, 2012

I don't know. I'm sensing a lot of "meh." But what's interesting is that despite how low the stakes apparently are, you seem to have a lot of "should"s about this -- should you care that A drinks? should you tell B? So, I want to tell you to have fun and follow your heart more, but since I don't think you have your heart set on either, mostly just -- have fun!
posted by salvia at 6:27 PM on July 17, 2012

Well, you know, we've all been there with A, right? I'm still of a mind to let you explore that more -- you are young, and you have to put your hand to the fire to really understand what "burned" means. He's got a hold on you; B may be available sexually but he's obviously your back-up man.

It's not a popular recommendation but you sound young and relatively sound -- go for A, it's the Big Hot Fire. I'm not sure anything else will make sense until you play that out.

Not that I have any experience or anything.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:51 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sleep with A if you want, but really, if you want an actual relationship, you should be talking less to these guys and more to other ones. This is too much angst for what is essentially casual sex.
posted by heyjude at 7:41 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been there, done this, more or less. This is kind of a false binary. I tend to think, based on my own experience, that you wouldn't be so hung up on "this one or that one" if either were really a stellar choice for you. I kind of feel like A is the thing you need to resolve and B is just the fallback, safety plan guy (poor choice for it, too, in my opinion, given that he doesn't seem all that wild about committing to you).

My advice, fwiw, would be to cut B loose, do whatever with A when he's in town in the hopes of burning through whatever it is that is unresolved for you, and then searching letters C through Z for better options.

As far as sleeping with A while still staying with B, as long as you're honest about the fact that you're not exclusive with both people (with a heads up about this being more than a theoretical concept) and use appropriate protection, you're probably good to go. As a sidenote, you may also wish to consider how likely this situation is to go all sitcom if there are any odds of A and B running into each other by surprise.
posted by scandalamity at 7:47 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Drop them and find someone who actually wants to be in a relationship.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:57 AM on July 18, 2012

and he never beat me up while we were together.

That's a really low bar and everyone deserves better than that.
posted by ersatz at 6:04 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Both these dudes seem like losers. Are you sure you should be involved w/either guy?
posted by discopolo at 6:22 AM on July 18, 2012

[Folks, if this hits too close to home to you and you can't be constructive it's okay not to answer.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2012

"and he never beat me up while we were together."

This statement caught my attention, too. What is so volatile about A that your mind goes there? Again, we don't know barely anything about A other than you sound really uneasy about him.

That is to say, you should listen to whatever voice is in the back of your head that is speaking this uneasiness. What is its point? What basis is it using? Gut feelings are super powerful if you trust your waking mind's ability to listen to and evaluate what the little doubts are saying. What we see all throughout your postings here are your heavyhanded attempts to ignore small and large warnings. Writing off B's dishonesty. Writing off A's drinking. Writing off your emotional affair with A. Writing off A and Bs' "not that into you" attitudes. Writing off your "not that into you" attitude towards B. Writing off your dependent mindset towards A.

I'm not saying any of these things are a dealbreaker. I guarantee that some of these things are a mere piffle. I also guarantee that some of these red flags are huge dangers. The only way to separate one from the other is to stop making excuses, and start having conversations with your own self and with your partners. If and only if everyone is on the same page afterwards, you can have your cake and eat it too.
posted by Skwirl at 11:23 AM on July 18, 2012

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