Moving on from not-quite-the-one
November 1, 2012 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Help me move on from a relationship where you care for each other and nothing was wrong, but it wasn't right either. Anecdotes about finding greater happiness later are especially welcome.

Not much more to explain. Was in a very nice, comfortable relationship but neither of us felt that spark. I'm not even talking about that elusive limerance, but rather that energy and excitement you feel when you're with someone that you are totally in sync with. Something was just missing, but so much was right, and that makes it bittersweet. I don't believe in "the One", but surely there must be more to love than what I was feeling. I'm scared that I'm hoping for a feeling that will never come, and this is maximum happiness there is for me. It makes me want to settle. Have people ever thought that, only end up in a situation that's better than they could have imagined? How do you not settle for good enough? Thanks in advance.

Oh, and please no telling me that perhaps this relationship should be given another chance. He feels that something is missing, too, except he has a much stronger conviction than I have that there could be greater happiness out there.
posted by lacedcoffee to Human Relations (13 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I was with someone for three years, including living together for one, and I kept thinking to myself, "We could get married.... it would probably be fine...." But I didn't want to give up on feeling real love, like I'd heard friends describe, so I ended it.

Many years passed. And now I'm engaged to an incredible man, and happy, and SO GLAD I didn't settle. Good luck!
posted by cider at 1:03 PM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

I had two good friends in such a relationship: both lovely, intelligent, fun people who on paper should have been perfect for each other, but in practice there was just never a spark beyond the initial excitement.

The breakup was tough for both of them - she went through a period of depression and he was definitely sad for a while too. But within a year of breaking up, they were both in serious relationships with other people. She wound up marrying hers and seems much happier. His relationship didn't last and I believe he's single at the moment, but he's done lots of other great things (traveled, focused on personal growth) that he probably wouldn't have been able to do as easily if they'd stayed together. Altogether, they're both a lot happier now than when they were together.
posted by lunasol at 1:06 PM on November 1, 2012

Here is some of the best advice I've ever received: You get what you settle for.

I had a few relationships where I just knew that it wasn't going anywhere, and as soon as I realized it, I pulled the plug. I never regretted it.

I met Husbunny when I was 38, we married when I was 39, and we're blissfully happy over 10 years later.

I still get excited when he gets home from work, we never argue and we enjoy each other's company, even if it's just watching Raccoon Nation with the cats.

You'll know when it's right, trust me, you will.

It's sad to say good bye, but think of how awesome it will be to be in a great relationship, with someone who's totally into you and vice-versa.

It's well worth waiting for.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:06 PM on November 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

You know what? There are nice, kind, decent people out there who just aren't the right match for you. That's ok. I was in a relationship like that for about six months. Nobody was an asshole, everybody behaved decently, and we just shook hands and went our separate ways. Within a year of that each of us met the person we would eventually marry, and that was eleven years ago. I have only nice things to say about that guy. But he was not remotely close to being life partner material.

You are doing each other a favor by moving on now and freeing yourselves to be available for something better. Don't fret about finding a new relationship right away, just focus on being happy in your own skin.
posted by ambrosia at 1:08 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have found it helpful to re-frame it from:
"Everything was so right except for the feeling that we weren't totally in sync in the way I wanted us to be. How could I have thrown everything away just for that?"
"There were a lot of good aspects, but we weren't totally in sync in that way I wanted us to be. That's a really big problem, because feeling 100% into someone is important to me, and that's why the relationship had to end."
posted by Sockmaster at 1:16 PM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

"Go, even though you’re afraid of being alone. Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does. Go, even though there is nowhere to go. Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay. Go, because you want to.
Because wanting to leave is enough."

My ex-fiance and I spent far too much time waiting for a reason to leave each other. Because we knew our friends and our families would always ask why. Because we knew we would spend the next few years asking ourselves why. Because we knew, in all honesty, there was no real reason why. It just wasn't right in the way we wanted it to be.

And that's okay. You don't have to justify that feeling. You just have to trust it.
posted by karminai at 1:23 PM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

I spent three years in a "good enough" situation. I felt guilty every time I entertained the thought of ending it because he was such a great guy who treated me well and there was no drama. I was always rationalizing being with him but something just wasn't there.

Finally, I ended it. A few months later, I met my current partner and here we are almost seven years later. I don't even refer to the "good enough" guy as my ex these days. He's my friend and so is his partner. Life is strange sometimes.

If your gut is nagging the heck out of you telling you there is more out there waiting for you, you should probably listen to it. Glad I did.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine in high school once came up with the cold fusion theory of relationships. In her explanation, cold fusion works on paper. Everything syncs and lines up in a way that the process should be awesome and revolutionize the world. However, in practice, it just doesn't work. Some relationships look awesome on paper but they just don't work. To her, if Einstein couldn't get cold fusion to work, there's no shame in not being able to get an almost-right relationship to work.

It sucks to realize that the relationship you invested time and energy into is cold fusion. But I promise you that when the relationship is actually as awesome in real life as it is on paper, you will look back on the cold fusion relationship and say "Ahh. This is the spark that was missing."
posted by teleri025 at 2:50 PM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

You don't mention how long you and Mr. Almost-but-not-quite were together, but there were obviously some qualities you liked and you were probably getting some needs met, so I think it's worth noting that the relationship ending means there will be some amount of loss/grief. I think the "what if's" and the uncertainty; those feelings like things aren't quite what you thought they were, etc. are a completely normal part of any breakup or split, however amicable or otherwise.

I myself dated through the years, and a few were horrible, one or two great, and most just... there. By the time I met my wife, I had truly come to believe that romance and that type of love was something best left to the movies. I don't mean fairy tales, I just mean I had become increasingly convinced that finding the right person was closer to "we can hang out and kind of have fun and not kill each other" far more than any kind of "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!"

Then, and this is as true as it is cliche, when and where I was least expecting it, I met the lovely and wonderful Mrs. Guy, and we've been together now for 15 years (married for 13). No one/nothing is perfect of course, but if you're wondering if you are settling, you're probably settling. If you are feeling like there must be more in store for you, there probably is. Keep looking (or stop looking) but don't give up or give in. Also, when you do find that someone, you can totally feel free to invite me to the wedding.

posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:35 PM on November 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

A great relationship is like a Great House. It has everything you need and a bunch of stuff that is just delightful extras like a jacuzzi tub.

A lot of things look kind of like a house. Coffee Shops, Churches... Sheds

And you might think, "hey this Shed is pretty great! It's sturdy, it keeps the rain out. It's pretty attractive" .... Then you'll start noticing little things "not as big as maybe I wanted, but maybe my expectation were unreasonable?? " "It's a little colder than I wanted, maybe I can just get a space heater and take care of my own needs for warmth"

And you'll find a way to fit a bed in there, and the space heater, and live in that tiny space. You might even convince yourself that this is all you need, or all you deserve.

But it will never be the Great House you've always wanted. Because it's a Shed.

Later you'll look back and laugh "Remember when I lived in that fucking Shed?"
posted by French Fry at 7:24 AM on November 2, 2012 [48 favorites]

I settled for two different someones in my 20s. The first guy I was with for 5 years. He was great - our personalities were very similar, we liked the same things and he loved me like crazy. But I never had any excitement or passion for him. We were glorified roommates. I ended it and it was painful, but the right thing to do.

Three years later, I met the second guy. I had been dating and met a lot of duds in the process. I was so happy to meet a nice normal guy so I kept seeing him. I knew from the beginning that it wouldn't work, but I was so tired of being single, so I went for it. We were together almost 3 years. Again, nothing was ever wrong - he was (and still is) a really nice and wonderful guy...but he wasn't for me.

One year later, I was on okcupid (thank you, Metafilter) and I met my current boyfriend. He was nothing like what I thought I wanted. I'm tall and only ever dated tall guys - he's 3 inches shorter than I. He's a hunter, I'm a vegetarian. He was just coming off a horrible marriage and looking for something casual....And we clicked from the first email. We moved in together 6 months after meeting. I was 31 and he was 37.

We talk about how we instantly knew it was right and how it never occurred to either of us that we didn't have to settle for someone until we met. That's the thing about finding one of your "ones" - and I know it sounds trite, but - when it's right you know. Don't kick yourself for knowing that something is missing and moving on.
posted by jacindahb at 1:40 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was in your position two years ago. Here is a list of things that happened after I ditched my five-year relationship with an awesome guy:

--I moved out of our shared apartment and into a brand new one. With strangers from Craigslist.
--I didn't date a single soul for months and months.
--Shortly after the big breakup, I found out awesome guy met an awesome girl. They're likely engaged.
--I did date! I went out with a string of fascinating, sexy, and accomplished men, including one from the teevee. None of these men became my new boyfriend.
--I wrote this Metafilter post, alone, on a Friday night.

So would I still make the decision to leave? Yep! Stories of happily ever after like the ones above are inspiring, but it'll be just fine if shit doesn't go down that way. Because in my case, the alternative to flying solo was becoming the kind of person who gets married with a shrug.

Props to you for choosing uncertainty and adventure over quiet desperation.
posted by jessca84 at 1:42 AM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been there. So happy I left! As you said, there was nothing particularly wrong. We never really fought, we had a healthy relationship, I could depend on him, my family loved him. But there was just something that I longed for, and over time it led to a boiling resentment. I couldn't even articulate what was wrong because it seemed intangible.

Now, I look back, and I couldn't imagine myself so miserable. I've been in relationships where something was wrong, and it made it harder to leave this one. I haven't found anyone yet, but I am completely happy at the moment. Would I love to have that passion? Of course! But I am finally (for the first time in my life) content with being single, and would choose that over being hunkered down in a relationship that fostered resentment.

Good luck. I think others have some wise words, and what you're feeling is COMPLETELY normal. Sometimes it's easier to stay, but easy isn't always fun or beneficial.
posted by andariel at 1:30 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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