Floating in relationship limbo
October 3, 2016 10:51 PM   Subscribe

Do we try to take a break, even though we live together? We get along so well as friends, and spend time together, but he's basically stopped being affectionate and said he's not sure if he loves me romantically anymore? How do we move forward?

I'm a 23-year-old female, and my boyfriend (25yo) and I have been dating for about 2 and a half years now. My dog and I moved in with him and two other male roommates at the beginning of June, 4 months ago. Our relationship has kind of turned more roomate-y rather than relationship-y. He doesn't really show me affection anymore. I try to, somewhat, and I didn't even fully noticed he'd stopped until we had this very candid and honest talk a couple of nights ago about the future of the relationship. We opened up to each other and realized that we both agreed we probably weren't going to stay together forever. We're both pretty independent people, and value each of our creative pursuits above everything else. I told him that I loved him still and I was happy just being with him until it didn't make sense anymore. But now I'm left wondering if it does make sense at all anymore. I knew our relationship had a vague expiration date, as I'm planning on doing some long-term traveling next year when our lease is up, though I haven't outlined this to anyone so explicitly. But I'm also incredibly in love with him. He's my best friend. Since the talk happened, there's been absolutely no affectionate touches. We've somewhat continued the conversation over a couple of days, not really coming to any conclusions. He's said he's not sure if he's in love with me romantically anymore, but he still loves me. I told him I still love him "romantically". We still do things together all the time (make dinner, go shopping, generally spend a good amount of our time together), and pal and joke around like everything's totally normal (minus the affection), but I just feel like I'm floating in limbo.

What are we doing here? What should we do? This is (for both of us) the longest relationship we've ever been in. Do we stick it out and keep trying to be boyfriend/girlfriend? Do we somehow take a break while living together? How is that possible?

I don't want to move out and I don't see him moving out either. Our lease is up June 1, 2017. I like living here with him, with our roommates. It's really good for my dog, and it makes me happy. I've felt pretty indifferent about this over the week, until yesterday when it hit me, and started hurting pretty bad. I'm just so confused about what his real feelings are, and it seemed like it kind of came out of nowhere. Living with him, our whole relationship has been so easy and good. We never fight, we constantly make each other laugh.

Do we just need to reignite the spark somehow? I really love him and don't want him out of my life, and I think he feels similarly about me. But maybe some kind of break would be good, so we can get some alone time? Maybe we've just been spending too much time together since we moved in?

Whatever is happening right now, it feels good because we're being open with each other but it also feels shitty because it sucks to love someone when they maybe don't love you the same way, all of a sudden. And I'm just stuck in this limbo. Please help me untangle myself from this mess of thoughts, if you can.
posted by LonelyOnes to Human Relations (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Breakups often seem like they come out of nowhere, because usually one person has been harboring serious doubts about the relationship, but doesn't want to rock the boat until they're sure. And by the time they're sure, they're SURE. That can leave the other person thinking they're still at a stage where the question is "can we fix this relationship" when the breaker-upper is already at "this relationship is over." And it really sounds like that's where your guy is. You're trying to interpret his words in the most positive light, but he's straight up said that he doesn't think of you romantically anymore.

Because he's moved to thinking of you as just a friend already, he may not see how hurtful hanging out all the time will be for you while you're still in love with him. Each time you have fun together you'll be thinking, "this is so great! He's clearly going to see that we should start dating again," while he's thinking, "this is so great! She's totally cool with this just-friends thing!" This is why it's often helpful to spend time completely apart after a breakup. Basically, you won't really be friends until you can meet the other's new significant other and actually be happy for them (not just faking happy because you think you should be over it.)
posted by MsMolly at 11:14 PM on October 3, 2016 [29 favorites]

Ah this is a pretty bummer situation.
Generally, moving in together should have made things better (!!). And if you've already known that you'd eventually be breaking up, its probably best to go with that. I dunno, i've heard of people setting 'break up dates' - its not really something i'd personally do, but. theres that. And some people live together after breaking up, but that could be a whole different can of worms in terms of either of you starting to see other people while living under the same roof etc. etc.

..hm. if he doesn't feel the same as you, isn't that the same as its over? I think its really cool how open you are with each other. If i were you, i'd look at other options that might save you from a lot of heart break (other than convenience)?
posted by speakeasy at 11:19 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm really sorry, but I think your relationship is over and that you should probably move out. I've been in this relationship limbo before, and it actually hurt less to pull the plug than to try to hold together a relationship with someone who wasn't in love with me anymore.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 12:14 AM on October 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

There are lots of ways for intimate relationships to play out. They don't need to end with an emotionally violent dumping and writing-off. If we're lucky, some of them wind up as lifelong friendships. If we're really lucky, which generally involves both parties being completely on the same page with respect to the nature of the relationship, the lifelong friendship can just kind of rise from the ashes of the intimate relationship and require very little in the way of horrible emotional wrenching.

Unfortunately, it's really quite rare for both parties to start out being on the same page. Usually what happens is that the special spark dies for one of them first, but takes time to die for the other. And that's generally very hard on the one whose spark is still burning.

If you can handle it emotionally, there is no hard and fast rule that says you're not allowed to move from being partners to being roomies; the usual advice of going no-contact for a while after a breakup is based on the fact that most people do find that transition prohibitively difficult. Many people also believe they've actually made the transition, but then find themselves experiencing horrible jealousy when their now-roomie starts a new intimate relationship with somebody else, and this is made much worse by physical proximity. But if you're not the kind of person inclined to beat themselves up for things beyond their control, you may well find that the degree of suffering involved in sticking around and working it through is quite tolerable.

it also feels shitty because it sucks to love someone when they maybe don't love you the same way, all of a sudden.

Yes, it does. It really, really does.

And I'm just stuck in this limbo.

It will still suck, but less, if you learn to focus on acceptance that this is how things are now and that you need to let this go. If something like what you had before comes back, it won't be because you did something to make it come back, and tying yourself in knots trying to work out what you need to do to get it back will just wear you down.

Sometimes the spark just goes out. It just does. And it hurts, especially when - as in your case - there seems to have been no reason for that; no bad guy, no betrayals, no bullshit, it just died.

You will need to grieve. You will probably need some time alone to do that. You may or may not need so much time alone as to make it impractical to keep living where you are; only you can make that call. But you haven't done anything wrong, and if you're up to it, continuing as roommates and best buds might well be completely achievable.
posted by flabdablet at 12:17 AM on October 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

Taking a break often just turns into a more painful, slow way of breaking up. It's often a way of one person saying, "I want this to still work," and the other person not wanting it to but trying to avoid having to say it.
posted by Candleman at 5:00 AM on October 4, 2016

June 2017 is a long long time. I think you should look for a new place to live. Maybe he can dogsit for a while if you need that.

You had an open convo about maybe breaking up- that's good. It was not followed by sex or cuddling- that's very bad. If the convo had made you physically closer I'd think there might be hope of staying together. But in your mid-20s, if there was no sex or cuddling since the convo- the relationship is tapering out.

Here's the hard truth- if he doesn't think of you romantically any more, you don't really want to be sharing a bed much longer- at some point he will want to sleep elsewhere and that will feel pretty awful. Why wait around for that?

My advice is to start looking for a new place to live.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:04 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are you going to be okay if he meets someone and starts bringing her to the house for evenings/sleepovers?

If you're not 100% on-board with that, I think you and your pup should find new digs as soon as possible.
posted by blueberry at 10:42 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to stop back in and thank all of you who gave me advice. It made me feel so much better, and more confident to be open with my (now ex!) boyfriend, and explore all of our options before deciding what to do about our relationship. After a couple days of more long talks and figuring out what each of us wants, and how we each feel, and logistics, we decided to break up. The issue we had with breaking up was that we're incredibly close, and really good friends with each other, so neither of us wanted to go through what usually happens when people break up: they don't see each other and grow distant. After all of our talks, and coming to a mutual decision about what to do, I think we are and will be able to maintain our friendship and roommate-ship. He moved upstairs about a week ago, and so far everything has been going really well. We continue to check in with each other and see how the other one is doing, if they're feeling uncomfortable with the situation or okay with everything. I'm feeling a lot happier already, and I think he is too. I'm just so glad we can still be friends after being together for so long. We also made a rule that if we do start seeing other people, not to bring them to our house. We agreed it would make us both pretty uncomfortable. If anything changes in the months before the lease is up, we will obviously make adjustments to the living situation, but right now everything is looking really bright. I'm pretty optimistic about the future. Thanks again, everyone <3
posted by LonelyOnes at 1:35 PM on October 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Next thing you're likely to be faced with is a new partner, either of yours or your roomie's, who simply cannot deal with you and your ex living together.

There really is no rule that says you can't, but an awful lot of people behave as if there is, simply because they can't imagine trusting themselves enough to do that.

That inability to deal is a strong red flag for me; ymmv.
posted by flabdablet at 4:02 AM on October 22, 2016

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