My relationship with my boyfriend is far from what I want...
April 7, 2020 6:55 AM   Subscribe

My “boyfriend” and I have been together for about 8 months and we have been living together for about 2. I moved to his country a couple of years ago because of a job. My contract is soon to end and my future here is uncertain. I might get a new contract at the company but it's not sure. I met him in the middle of this situation and although I had doubts and wondered if it was a good idea to date someone now, I decided to give it a try. We soon became very close and he asked me to move in with him.

We made the decision to move in together to share this experience but also out of convenience, because the flat where I was living was too expensive and it thought it would be good to save some money. His roommate was also leaving and he offered me to move in his place and see how things would go. I accepted his offer, sublet my flat and moved, thinking that this would also allow me to get to know him better and figure out if he is the right person. Something happend though before I moved in. He casually dropped the news that before he met me he had been thinking to move to another country as it had always been a dream of his to move abroad. He said that this might cristalize as he had received a job offer. I almost broke up with him when I learned this but he convinced me to stick around. He basically told me that it wasn’t sure and that he couldn’t completely change his plans now based on a relationship that was just beginning. He said “let’s stay together and see how things go”. I decided to accept his offer, also considering that my own situation is unstable too and I might move away if I find a job elsewhere. On the one hand, even thought I accepted, I felt somehow that this was a bad idea and that it was not conducting me at all towards my goal, which is to have a stable relationship and start a family eventually. I also feared that he was just using me as company and as a lover before he leaves. On the other hand, I thought that it was not such a bad idea to date someone who is willing to go to another country, as this could mean that he might be willing to move to my country one day. It has been a dream of mine for a while to go back to my country and although it is not sure that I will do it soon, I think I would like to be with someone that considers this possibility. I also thought it would be good for me to save some money and get to know him better.

Things have been going ok but not great. We have had a lot of good moments together and some bad ones too. The good moments have been great, fun, passionate, emotional… but we have had some fights too. He is very distant sometimes, his mood swings a lot and this stresses me. I confronted him about this and he acknowledged that he has a tendency to need to get away from others when he is upsted but claimed that it is normal and that we all have bad days. He also admitted to generally being afraid of commitment and to sleeping around a lot in the past. I am aware that no one is perfect but I feel that his negative aspects are too much and they might eventually drain me emotionally.

Just a few days ago we had a fight. Because of the instability of my situation here in this country and with him, I asked him to give me more clarity about his expectations and plans. He was visibly overwhelmed with my questions but made an effort to address my concerns. He ended up telling me that he thinks it would be the right decision for him to move away, as he had always wanted that. I got angry and went to sleep in the living room. The following day he approached with a very soft and affectionate attitude and told me that he cares about me but that he still thinks it is the right decision for him to move away, as he had always wanted that and we "barely know each other". He also said that I should focus on my career now. He also said that we could share some good moments in the mean time and that things might change. He concluded that “we never know what is going to happen so let’s just enjoy these months”. He even suggested that we go on holidays to my home country in a few months... I don’t think it is a good idea for me to pursue this casual relationship that he suggests we have. On the one had, I am somehow stuck in his flat because I sublet mine and the people who are staying there will stay there for three more months or more (it depends on me, but three months are confirmed). I guess I could find another place for this three months but it would be stressful and time-consuming. I also think that I have enough peace and quite here in this place with him to continue looking for a job. I have also considered taking the attitude he suggests as it might not be a bad idea to enjoy these months together with him and have a good time in spite of the fact that there is no future for us as a couple. And I guess deep down I hold the hope that if things go well, we might end up together anyway. On the other hand, I feel resentful towards my “boyfriend” and used. I think that I am just giving him my time, my attention and my company for nothing. I think we are doing all of this in his terms and that it is not fair. I think that the fact that he has admitted to being afraid of commitment is a bid red flag that I should not ignore. I am considering to avoid having sex with him and become his "roommate" only instead. This will be hard though as I am very attracted to him. It might also create tensions between us and resentment from his part. I just feel that this whole arrangement puts me in a vulnerable position of potential heart-break and distances me from what I want (a committed relationship). I don’t know how to process what happened between us on the last days and how to proceed. I don’t even know what attitude to take around him. Should I be nice and pretend nothing is happened? Should I be distant? Should I leave now? I fluctuate between thinking that he is a jerk and I should run away from him asap to thinking that he is right when he suggests we should enjoy the moment and see where this takes us. Any ideas? Thanks for reading!
posted by Fromthesouth to Human Relations (11 answers total)
Best answer: Wow.. that's a lot to take in. But it's a tough question to ask a group of people. It really comes down to the type of person you are and what you're comfortable with.

Some people could handle the emotional part of just being with someone 'for fun' without expectations, and knowing it will just end at some point (a semi friends with benefits thing).

I mean, looking at the situation, this isn't the guy that you'd want to stay with long term in any case, even if he did 'come around.'

Perhaps you did get wrapped up in the honeymoon phase newness around moving in and everything.. I don't really see anything that says he intentionally went out to manipulate you or your feelings, or that you did either. Sounds more like he's someone that doesn't think about longer term consequences of complex situations.

You have to do what you feel like you can look back on in 5 years and not shudder, need therapy to work through, or generally face plant and think you made a horrible mistake. Something you can live with, eyes wide open, even if it isn't the 'right' or 'pc' or 'moral' decision..

As, there likely isn't a right or wrong decision here on those levels, just back to what you feel your psyche and 20-20 vision towards the past will let you accept and look fondly on and say "Hey, that was an interesting time' versus 'OMG, it ruined my life.'
posted by rich at 7:15 AM on April 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have also considered taking the attitude he suggests as it might not be a bad idea to enjoy these months together with him and have a good time in spite of the fact that there is no future for us as a couple. And I guess deep down I hold the hope that if things go well, we might end up together anyway.

I'm old, so take my advice with whatever grain of salt you like, but "be someone you're not so that you can end up in a relationship you're unhappy with" is not what you want, unless you'd like that resentment-and-feeling-used feeling to last a really, really long time. He's said his own dreams for himself are directly at odds with how he sees this relationship going; how much more information you'd need to be sure that this person isn't committed to the idea of an "us"?

From the sound of it, what you do want is clarity about your own near-term future, and how you can get safely from here to out of here. So you probably want to find a new place to stay in the short term, tell him it's over when you've got another place to go and go.

How you act in the meantime is between you and your conscience, so friends-with-benefits it up if you like or don't if you don't, but I wouldn't share my plans ahead of time with somebody I don't really trust, and who has a history of trying to talk me out of my own wants and needs for their own selfish benefit.
posted by mhoye at 7:15 AM on April 7, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: So... I've been in a similar situation before - dating someone for 8 months, living together for 2, job uncertainty - except we moved in together when she moved to a different state for school, so it was new for both of us. It... didn't end well. Some of the reason why is particular. I have certain things that I deal with badly, and she had a lot of things that she dealt with badly, and a lot of those things overlapped to the point where it became untenable. But some of it was structural. Like you, we were still fairly early in our relationship, and that made a difference. (I found myself in a similar situation, living somewhere I don't want to live and being uncertain about work, with my wife after we'd been married a few years, and we're still married. It's easier to work things out when you've been together longer.) Both of you also seem like you want to be elsewhere, and not the same elsewhere. That's a big problem. It won't get any easier to solve over time. It also sounds like you have different relationship goals, which is a perfect setup for someone (in this case, you) to be hurt.

My advice is to be nice (always be nice), but end the relationship. There are plenty of alternate universes where this relationship could work, but getting to that point is going to be a lot of work and a lot of pain.

If there's a bright side, my story ends by me moving back to my home (literally, in with my parents), and in less than a year meeting the woman I'd end up marrying. My story sucked in the short term, but it worked out for the best. I hope yours does too.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:22 AM on April 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers and thoughts. I really appreciate them. They give me insights that are important for me to make decisions.
posted by Fromthesouth at 8:31 AM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

not conducting me at all towards my goal, which is to have a stable relationship and start a family eventually.

Even if you went and got your own place I don’t see how you’re going to make any progress toward that during this quarantine period. All of our lives are in this weird limbo for now.

If you think your emotional boundaries are up to it, having a fling for a month or two might be a nice way to pass the time right now. Eventually life will return to normal and we can all continue on toward our goals.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:36 AM on April 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You sound like me in my past when I was younger. And maybe also in the not to distant past ;-)

You are spending of lot of words trying to rationalize and make something fit that is not fitting.

You wouldn't be asking us if you knew in your heart of hearts you 100% wanted to be there. I am not someone that can have a casual physical relationship. You don't sound like you are either. You sound like you want this to turn into something that it's not.

Let me speak from much sad experience: when a guy says he doesn't want a committed relationship, he means it. That is the important part. Nothing will change that. He is of course attractive and wonderful to spend time with and you feel good around him but you want something different than he does. The longer you are together, even as "roommates", the more this will fester and become ugly. He will probably say what he thinks you want to hear now because he likes that you are there for many reasons. He of course enjoys your company but emotionally you two are having a very different relationship.

If you need permission from strangers on the internet to do what is best for you, you have it.
posted by affectionateborg at 9:04 AM on April 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I would frame it like this: given that the pandemic may limit other options for any relationship or any housing situation and this "boyfriend" probably has no interest in a long-term relationship, do I want to stay? I think he's sending you some strong signals (telling you he fears commitment, making plans that do not involve you but very much affect you, "let's see where this goes") that he's not in it for the long term. You may not be up for being casual and that is okay, but I wouldn't pursue it in the hopes that it'll develop into an air quote-free boyfriend. That seems really unlikely.
posted by *s at 9:44 AM on April 7, 2020

I mean, unfortunately part of dating is discovering incompatibilities with someone, and one massive incomaptibility is differences in what you're looking for, both short and long term. He's telling you he wants something different than you are. You can't change him and you're not going to change his mind.

In the future, these are the kinds of conversations you should try to have before moving in. It's unclear to me how much you discussed this all beforehand. You shouldn't move in to get to know someone, though - that has to happen BEFORE you move in. Get to know each other by datiflng and talking and spending time together, but don't move in until you KNOW you're looking for the same thing longterm.

And love yourself enough to find someone whose long term plans match up with yours.

Good luck.
posted by Amy93 at 11:31 AM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your words. They are very helpful. I was just wondering what I attitude you think I should show on the next days. I decided that I will stay here for a while, I might even stay here the whole three months if finding an alternative place becomes hard for me. This is very likely given the circumstances... I was just wondering what attitude I should take... I feel that being too nice is not fair and is disrepectful towards myself. I was thinking being indifferent might be better but I'm afraid this might create tensions and further drama.
posted by Fromthesouth at 2:27 PM on April 7, 2020

That depends. Are you breaking up with him while you’re still living in the house, or after you leave? If you break up with him now (even kindly), is he the kind of person who will turn sulky when he can’t get sex and affection from you when he wants - because you’re still living with him - given that we’re in a pandemic and he can’t get it from anyone else, either.

If both of you can handle living together while not being together, sure, try and make it work. Personally I couldn’t think of anything worse but given that your job is up in the air and moving in the midst of a pandemic will probably be even harder, this may be the better option. Attitude wise, I would aim for friendly but reserved. Treat him like you would any other room mate.

Really, I think you need to write down a solid plan that doesn’t involve the boyfriend because he’s not going to be around soon. Where do you want to live, what kind of job do you want? What do you want your life to look like? And work towards making that happen. That’s a big enough project that should take up most of your time and take your mind off your relationship.
posted by Jubey at 2:50 PM on April 7, 2020

Best answer: I had to respond to this: he cares about me but that he still thinks it is the right decision for him to move away, as he had always wanted that and we "barely know each other"

I mean, we were in our 30s and you might be younger or not wanting to move this fast, but after 8 months me and my SO had decided to get married and I was planning my proposal. So... "barely know each other" sounds wild to me. From the context, it's just an excuse and by the looks of it you know that, so, great.

Regarding your question on what you should do now, here's what I would do, on the assumption that you guys need to break up, which it sounds like you know you need to do:

FIRST: talk to a friend, make sure you have a back-up plan of somewhere to go if things get nasty, even if it's for just a night or two.

SECOND: you guys need to talk, and agree the next bit together. Ask him to set aside some time to talk seriously, for example, this evening. Get a drink, nothing alcoholic. Sit down together, and say look - we have different priorities, different needs, and we are going in different directions. I don't want a casual thing right now, and that seems to be what you want, so I think we should break up in order to protect both of our feelings from this mismatch. Lets try living together as roommates, as we need to see out this lease for now, and see how this goes. Are you happy with this, and are you up for putting in the work needed to transition our relationship away from romantic and keep things civil?

THIRD: begin that transition. it might be a bit back and forth, and you might need to talk more about it as you go. establish your boundaries, stick to them, and be firm if he tries to push them (this could be anything from trying to kiss you or get sexy, to talking to you about his life/plans/emotions when you haven't indicated you're available or wish to talk).

LAST: if he acts out, or things become unbearable, call up your friend. Don't let him manipulate, guilt trip, or abuse you, because you have had the clarity to see that this isn't working for you.
posted by greenish at 5:04 AM on April 8, 2020

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