Meant to be or not meant to be?
June 11, 2015 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I met this really great guy a few months ago (in a pretty romantic/spontaneous way) after a string of not great relationships. Everything is really healthy, relationship-wise right now. We both have loads of space to sort our brains/ lives, and the small amount of time we do spend together (looking like once a week/ once every two weeks) is really, really something special. However, he’s on a career fast track and has a hard time balancing work/family.

Healthy Brain says, “Yes this is great for you right now, and your lives could potentially grow together and be really beautiful IF his schedule magically frees up”, Mental Illness Brain is saying, “I really need more attention than I’m getting right now.”, and Skeptic Brain is saying, “You’re both falling hard for each other, but you’re thinking about starting a business (around 5 years from now) that probably won’t be in NY. He doesn’t seem like he’s going to leave. This will really hurt both of you if it’s too drawn out.”
I feel like I shouldn’t write this off so quickly if this could be something real, but I don’t want to be waiting by the proverbial phone for him to become more available. I can’t see the current frequency of our time together working out too well in the long run.
I don’t have a lot of experience with healthy relationships, and due to life circumstance I’ve had to switch my goals from family (stay at home mom) to career. (no, there’s no going back to family)
How do you make this kind of decision?
What kinds of things should I look for when deciding to stay with him or go? I’m kind of on the train of, “Do This Until it Feels Bad”, but logistically this may not work in this case?
Help me Hive Mind, you're my (not really) only hope.
posted by Kestrelxo to Human Relations (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think "Do this until it feels bad" is a perfectly sane course of action in this situation.
posted by 256 at 3:09 PM on June 11, 2015 [18 favorites]

career fast track makes it very unlikely his schedule will "magically free up"
At least of part of you wants (not "needs", maybe but "wants") more attention that you are getting now.
He is very attached to New York and you see wanting to move on in your likely future

If you were just looking fun, I would say "go for it - you never know" but it sounds like you really want to be in a relationship that at least has the potential of turning into something long term. This one doesn't. You won't find one that does while you are in the middle of this one.
posted by metahawk at 3:16 PM on June 11, 2015

I'm probably an outlier in this, but in my experience, everything ends. You know, relationships end because one or both people decide it's time to end it or because one or both people die or whatever.

And I'm not someone who ever wanted children so I don't have the same pressures that women who want to raise children in a stable household do. But "Do This Until It Feels Bad" (with the caveat that of course one works on one's relationships, they may end but they're not completely fungible or disposable and hey we're talking about people's feelings here) is kind of how it has worked best for me for my entire adult life. There have been moments when I felt sad because I didn't have the one relationship that lasted a lifetime, but when those moments arrive I think about what great loves I've had and how much I appreciate them, especially in view of so many people being in difficult long term relationships or never finding the right fit for them.

And keeping the truth of impermanence in my mind makes me a much better partner -- Knowing that one day this will be over makes it very clear that there's no time to waste on bullshit like arguing over ice cream flavors or whose turn it is to pay the bar tab.

It would be great if you could plan today for a career in five years and find the right person who would move with you in five years and start their own business too or whatever, but five years is a nice long chunk of time for a relationship in which you could learn a lot about being in a healthy relationship and about appreciation for the current moment. I think if you're going to move on because of your career goals, then what you're describing is fantastic -- you enjoy each other when you are together, but neither is totally dependent on the other, so when the day comes that you will part, you'll have less of a hole ripped out of your life.

My thought is: Focus on what works and if what doesn't work begins to outweigh what works, re-evaluate. In other words, "Do This Until It Feels Bad".
posted by janey47 at 3:26 PM on June 11, 2015 [27 favorites]

I think that if you are planning to move in five years to start a business, then any relationship you start is at high risk of coming off the rails at that point. Yes, some percentage of guys will be willing to relocate, but lots of them won't. If you want to continue with this guy, then find other social and interactive things to do with other people while he's working late. And keep telling yourself that it's going to be temporary. If it makes you feel hurt and rejected that he's busy (I can relate), then cut it off. Mostly what 256 said.

(On preview, I do know people who seem to have stayed in effed-up relationships too long. If this isn't making you happy or benefiting you in some other way, then move on.)
posted by puddledork at 3:30 PM on June 11, 2015

One, and I'm not going to make a huge deal about it, but I highly recommend not characterizing yourself has having multiple brains. I understand your point, but..

Two, from experience, consider whether you are dating a workaholic and consequently whether all relationships will always take a backseat to their career. One helpful thing might be to find out if addiction (alcoholism, careerism, etc.) run in the family.
posted by rhizome at 3:59 PM on June 11, 2015

My rule is once a week is the bare bones minimum. And that means a real date night. Not, like, seeing them for coffee.

Once every two weeks enters "not a relationship" territory to me. I mean, I barely remember yesterday, two weeks is a huge chunk of time to me. (That's 24 times a year total that you see someone.)

He's just not that into you. Keep seeing him but actively date others.
posted by quincunx at 4:20 PM on June 11, 2015 [14 favorites]

He's not going to have a lot of time for you and you need more attention. You can't carry and drive a real relationship all by yourself. How is that unreasonable or unhealthy?
posted by discopolo at 4:22 PM on June 11, 2015

Another vote for Do This Until It Feels Bad (but check in with yourself frequently to make sure things are still worth it). Caveat: It's hard for strangers on the Internet to tell how much time you need to make a relationship work for you, though, so you shouldn't convince yourself that things feel fine because you're still holding out hope for his time to magically free up. I think you should assume that won't happen, at least not for a long time and even then only if you know he wants to be better about that balance between work and home. I'd recommend going forward, but check in with yourself from time to time to honestly assess if things are still good and still worth it.

I say this because, well, maybe it will never Feel Bad. For what it's worth: a few years ago I started a somewhat ill-advised relationship with someone with a full time job and taking classes at night, and who can sometimes be bad at balancing work and home (and, to his credit, quickly explained that this was the case even when he wasn't both working and at school). Plus, he had just broken up with his live-in girlfriend just weeks before. Double plus, he was not living in the same city as me, and I had no intention to move from my home city.

We're now engaged. Work/life balance is still hard, but it is absolutely totally worth it to me.

Final thought: Maybe consider if your Skeptic Brain is actually a Fear Brain. Telling yourself not to go for a relationship because you have plans to do something that might make things hard in five years is like when people (mostly women, unfortunately) don't go for promotions because some day they might want kids. I don't think that's a great reason to deny yourself a Good Thing now.
posted by alligatorpear at 4:22 PM on June 11, 2015 [8 favorites]

Nthing Do This Until It Feels Bad (one clue about when it will Feel Bad is when your description of the thing would surpass 5 angsty paragraphs--rather than the ~2 calm paragraphs you've written here--roughly). And: things can change so much in five years. So, so, so, so unimaginably much. Especially if you're under 40ish. So if you both have strong feelings and it really feels healthy, keep going and see what happens. Enjoy it!
posted by witchen at 4:33 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

How well do you communicate with him? How well does he communicate with you? How much you+him time does he need, and how much does he feel is enough, too little, or way too little?

High powered careers tend to not open up more free time. Theoretically, they can get into a position where the employee can carve open some free time, but the A types who get into that position seldom do so.

We have absolutely no way of telling what his position on time/dating/priorities/saying NO to work is. Do you know? Can you converse with him to find out?

Since you don't have childbearing pressure, I think taking time to explore this is likely well worth it. You certainly don't have to pressure yourself to decide Decide DECIDEEE!!!!!
posted by Jacen at 4:37 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would treat this relationship more as a friends with benefits rather than Long-Term Monogamous Life Partners future. I think there's a part of all of us that want romantic relationships to mean something more. But I have very good friends who I only see once a month, who are very special to me. I don't have sex with them, but if I was attracted to someone and single, and not looking to settle down, that sounds kind of awesome to have a FWB situation.

I think the danger is if you guys only see each other once every few weeks but still have these outsized expectations of each other (e.g. "when am I going to meet his/her family" or "why is s/he going on vacation to visit a friend instead of prioritizing me" or "why is s/he going on an optional business trip when it's my birthday"). If you can both get your heads around this being OK just the way it is, then that's great. Maybe you'll meet someone else and tell him that the "benefits" stuff has to stop. Or vice versa. But that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the now with each other.
posted by tk at 4:53 PM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was recently dating a startup CEO with a kid and saw him 2-3 times a week. You don't really explain why you're seeing each other so little but if you need more attention that's valid and doesn't sound like mental illness at all.
posted by sweetkid at 4:54 PM on June 11, 2015 [10 favorites]

Thanks, you guys! I'm going to DTUIFB, and who knows, maybe it'll never feel bad.
posted by Kestrelxo at 4:57 PM on June 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm concerned that you identify the part of your brain that wants attention from a romantic partner as the "Mental Illness Brain." That kind of pathologizing of your role in a relationship doesn't seem...totally great, especially since it's not saying "I want constant nonstop attention," it's saying "maybe once every 14 days isn't all that hot."

"Do it until it feels bad" doesn't seem like a terrible plan (especially considering that, per your posting history, you were still married less than a year ago....?) but I'm wondering how tuned-up your radar for "feeling bad" is if you're prone to filing your needs under "mental illness."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:58 PM on June 11, 2015 [16 favorites]

Okay, his schedule isn't going to just magically free up. And seeing each other 2-3 times a month is not enough for a romantic relationship a few months in. So I think it's actually your "healthy brain" that's telling you that you're not getting enough time and attention!
posted by J. Wilson at 5:20 PM on June 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

I can't imagine being so certain about what I will be doing in five years as to have it enter into a decision to end a relationship today. A hell of a lot can happen in five years.
posted by mister pointy at 5:43 PM on June 11, 2015 [10 favorites]

Yeah, wanting to see your boyfriend more than once every two weeks is not mental illness. If you have a particular history of codependency - like I do - it can be very good to be with someone who is busy and can't be in constant contact. But seeing each other once every week or two is worlds away from talking all the time on google chat and spending every free moment together.

Personally I think you could find a person to date who is more available but is not codependent - if that indeed is why you characterize wanting more attention as "mental illness brain" - but if you like this guy and this situation truly makes you happy, go for it. But wanting more attention is not something to chastise yourself over - if you saw each other five times a week and texted or chatted all the time when you weren't together then that might be cause for pause if you wanted more attention - but don't deny yourself what you need from a relationship if what you need is reasonable. It's reasonable to want to see your significant other more than once every two weeks.

Take care.
posted by sockermom at 6:20 PM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mental Illness Brain is saying, “I really need more attention than I’m getting right now.”

I don't think that sounds like mental illness brain. I wouldn't attribute wanting to see him regularly to mental illness. Have you told him this? It sounds like it's weighing on you and it's completely reasonable. What about a conversation along the lines of, I adore you but the infrequency of our dates makes us worry about whether this is going to be workable for me going forward; how are you feeling?
posted by mermily at 7:55 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I married someone who's a workaholic, regularly works 15 hour days, and is on a "career track". I myself am a workaholic, and I travel about 12-16 times a year for work, and own 2 businesses. The secret? If you want to see each other, you will MAKE IT HAPPEN. Never in our relationship have we ever prioritised work over each other, and I can tell you that a few months into dating, we were seeing each other a LOT more than once a week/fortnight. Even if it's a 30 minute catchup at 11pm on a school night, we have made it happen. Every, single, time. Because time with each other is just that delicious, even though we both LOVE our careers.

I vote for: he's not that into you, OR he's actively prioritising his work over you. Are you okay with either scenario?
posted by shazzam! at 8:07 PM on June 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

This situation never gets better for me when I encounter it. My vote is to keep dating, as you already sound anxious over the attachment bond that is forming between you and this person. Being in touch once a week is not nearly enough for me to feel comfortable with someone I consider my primary partner.
posted by macinchik at 11:14 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also...try not to put so much stock in the "meet cute," if that's why you're thinking of this in "meant to be" terms. It doesn't actually mean anything in the life of the relationship and thinking of things as "meant to be" can get you into a whole lot of heartache and wasted time, putting up with shit you really shouldn't because DESTINY.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:57 AM on June 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

I am favoriting We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese's (I love that username!) comment so hard. This is very important. One thing I have learned during my (admittedly short) time on earth is that nothing - nothing - is meant to be (except our own death; sorry to be a bit morbid, but I like to be accurate).

After I left my most co-dependent, toxic relationship (not directly afterwards; I had two other incredibly co-dependent relationships, one romantic and one non-romantic) I started dating a guy who was super unavailable, both emotionally and physically (as in, he didn't want to see me very often - we had a standing date and he was rigid about not seeing me any time except for these pre-determined, fixed days of the week; like, one time early in our relationship, I left something I needed at his house and he wouldn't let me come get it and I had to wait until our next date to get it). I swung too hard in the opposite direction. He and I worked on this together a lot, and he became a lot more available to me over time (years), but it was really difficult for me to be with someone who wasn't just plain healthy with his relationship attachment. There's a difference between being busy and having a life and not being co-dependent, and being unavailable. I might examine whether or not this guy is healthy for you, or whether you're swinging too far as a way to avoid co-dependency - or to avoid something else - as I did.

Also, five years might as well be forever. Time is a strange animal. It is very, very funny and odd, and we don't know how it is going to change our plans for our own lives. Would you stop yourself from making a friend because you might move away in five years? I remember when I was in my early 20s and I was dating a great guy (admittedly, we were co-dependent, but it was probably the healthiest relationship I've ever had). We planned to move to a new city in about a year. A woman from work invited me to her book club and I remember saying to my now-ex: "Well, we're moving a year from now. Doesn't seem like there is any point in getting to know her, since I'll be leaving soon." He agreed, and we kept doing our own thing, intertwined together. We did move, and we had a house together, and then I left to move to another city and our plans were that he would follow me, and then that did not happen. Even though we dated for eight years and planned to always be together.

And now - nearly ten years later - I regret not making that friend, because that woman was really cool, and I missed out on having a friendship with her. I am currently moving from my city and I'm still nurturing friendships here - even relatively new ones - because life is short and I want friends. Not only do I want friends, I deserve to have friends. I've lived in this city where I am for six years - six years - and when I moved here I knew that eventually I would leave. But did that stop me from making friends, from forging multiple romantic relationships with people (most of them, admittedly, were not good romantic relationships, but those are stories for another time)? Heck no. Don't deny yourself from having a life because you plan to be busy in five years time. Almost anything can happen in five years.

You deserve happiness. You deserve to have good, healthy relationships. You deserve to have a good life. Take care of yourself, and don't settle for what other people want in lieu of what you need.
posted by sockermom at 10:47 AM on June 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Thanks for the thoughtful responses and different viewpoints. I'm really focusing on integrating (healthy, good, insert positive attribute) people in to my life right now. I'm at a place where I'm pretty confident I can identify those people, I just don't know what to do when I've caught them, so to speak. I appreciate you
posted by Kestrelxo at 2:32 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

From your post, I think you are trying to talk yourself into accepting a situation that you don't like. You don't like the infrequency of your time together but you're going to convince yourself it's Ok because it's "healthy" or whatever. I've said this before and I'll say it again: When people want your in their lives, they make time. I don't care how busy they are.

I agree with the poster above who advises that you continue to date other people.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 4:25 PM on June 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Coming in late to say that I agree that keeping this going until you no longer want to is a good plan, but how about framing it as "do it as long as it feels good"? Relationships should be a positive in your life, not just a non-negative.

Also, if you are only seeing this guy every couple of weeks, make sure you keep your own social network and interests active and vibrant. Don't close off your options for someone who is not willing to become a bigger presence in your life.
posted by rpfields at 1:16 AM on June 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

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