Lost, having doubts on my relationship and in a strange life situation….
October 16, 2020 5:57 AM   Subscribe

I have been in a relationship for some time now. My boyfriend is a really nice person who I love and loves me. He treats me with respect, he listens to me and he is a very good friend. I also treat him with respect and in a loving way and we get along well. We rarely fight and he can count on each other. However, I have been thinking about leaving him and for a while… The problem is that I do not feel particularly attracted to him, although I do find him to be good looking… there is just not that attraction so we rarely have sex. I also don’t feel emotionally connected to him, he is a very cold person, in the sense that he doesn’t express emotion (either positive or negative), he is also very unromantic… he rarely compliments me and I don’t feel sexual or sexy around him… I feel that I get along with him but I also feel that we don’t really know each other well, he is not a curious person, he barely asks questions about me and our conversations are pretty mundane… And he is not creative so it’s me who has to come up with ideas about things to do…

I had already made a post about this relationship, asking for advice but there is another aspect to our relationship that I didn’t talk about on my last post. I live in a foreign country. Work brought me here. I have enjoyed life here in general and I cherish the experiences that this country has given me but there are some things that are lacking too. Basically, I feel kind of isolated here. I do have some nice friends that I truly love and care about but they are just a few… I find it hard to make more friends because people here are nice but distant… I rarely receive invitations for social events and my social life is pretty boring. The weather here is also cold and I often feel weather blues. The language is very complicated too and I haven’t had the time and the motivation to master it. I do speak it and I can communicate but communication remains a challenge and I feel very clumsy when I speak it. It would definitely require a lot of work to improve and speak it fluently… Sometimes I think that life would simply be easier and more enjoyable if I lived in a country whose language I can speak fluently… I speak 3 languages fluently and I often wonder why I am living in a country where I struggle to communicate? There is another reason why I would like to leave this country. If I were to leave my current relationship, I think that it would be hard to find another person here. In the past, before I met my current boyfriend, I had many bad experiences with men… Simply most of these men that I met I met them online and many of them rejected me. I think the cultural differences were too much for them to deal with… Maybe there are other reasons… I don’t know… but I went through many bad dates and bad short relationships… I have to admit that I also rejected many men because I didn’t feel any connection with them... Some time ago, I took a trip to another country and I realized that men there were treating me very differently, that they were much more willing to get to know me, that they were just more friendly and interested in me and that it was simply easier to connect with them… I am still in touch with some of these men and I think that some of them are interested in me in “another way”… but I have no idea how these relationships would evolve…

For these reasons, I have been thinking about leaving both my boyfriend and the country where I live now… why didn’t I do it before? I guess, for the same reasons I am not doing now… it feels very hard to do both things at the same time… My life would change completely, I would stop seeing my current friends, I would have to find another apartment, I would go from being a woman in a relationship to being a single women starting life from cero elsewhere… Furthermore, I wouldn’t know where to go... I could go back to my country or go to another country… On the one hand, in terms of jobs, my country and specially my home city, which is very small, are not great but at least my family is there… On the other hand, I have a European passport that would allow me to settle in another European country but I don’t know if I would succeed in finding a job there… I think that I can arrange my job situation elsewhere in a year or so but I wonder what would happen with my love life in the mean time? I can support myself for some years without working so I was just thinking about just choosing a place where I enjoy the language and weather more and explore if I can build a life there… but that option also feels very risky to me, going alone to an unknown place where I know no one… leaving a loving boyfriend and a known city behind to venture myself to the unknown…I am also afraid I might end up in a “the grass is greener” type of situation… my intuition nonetheless tells me that I have to take the risk and not settle for a life that is unsatisfying on so many levels…

What do you think about all of this? How can I go about changing my life?
posted by Fromthesouth to Human Relations (12 answers total)
I can support myself for some years without working so I was just thinking about just choosing a place where I enjoy the language and weather more and explore if I can build a life there… but that option also feels very risky to me, going alone to an unknown place where I know no one… leaving a loving boyfriend and a known city behind to venture myself to the unknown…I am also afraid I might end up in a “the grass is greener” type of situation… my intuition nonetheless tells me that I have to take the risk and not settle for a life that is unsatisfying on so many levels…

The “loving boyfriend” who you describe as cold and uninterested in knowing you deeply? The “known city” where you have few friends and feel uncomfortable most of the time? You have no actual reason to stay. You’re just scared to move on - but you should! (With all the caveats about moving during a pandemic of course.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:09 AM on October 16 [24 favorites]

You’re already emotionally cheating in some sense with those men from the other country (even though it sounds like you haven’t crossed any hard lines, you’re choosing to remain in contact with men you feel have some romantic potential and who seem interested in you), so it seems like you are totally emotionally checked out to me.

You’re going to resent the hell out of this man if you stay with him in a passionless relationship in a country you hate. Better to get out now than cheating down the line or staying with him and suffering. Change is terrifying, but think about the alternative.
posted by shaademaan at 6:17 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the real question isn't "Should I leave?" but "I'm leaving: how do I cope with total life upheaval?"

In my experience, the answer is "You figure out what you can hold on to." Do you have friends you'd keep being able to call or text or Zoom when you live in another country? Hobbies you can keep doing, or a hobby community you can keep participating in? A career you could cling to as a point of similarity between your old life and your new one? A religion that's practiced in similar ways in both places? Those will be the things that keep you sane when you're a single woman in a new country.

If you don't have any of those things, I won't lie, this is going to be harder. But you can start looking now for things you can anchor yourself to that aren't your boyfriend. That way, you'll be less likely to get stuck like this a second time.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:26 AM on October 16 [13 favorites]

I recognize you from previous questions. You’ve asked whether you should leave your boyfriend three times in the past six months. I think you already know the answer. I encourage you to start researching new places to live. Think about what you want and what would make you happy, even if you never meet another man and remain single forever. Then go and do those things. Life is very short, and you’re wasting time in a relationship you already know you don’t want.
posted by little mouth at 6:27 AM on October 16 [25 favorites]

I hope you have friends who can non-judgmentally hype you up through the upcoming changes. If I knew you, I would be *so excited* for your upcoming adventure and do whatever I could to help bring out the bright spots of what you have to look forward to and help you work around the parts you’re anxious about.

This would be easier and more enjoyable without the pandemic going on, but here’s an idea of a mental narrative to start telling yourself.

Imagine your future self in a place and situation that sounds happy and relaxing, a very specific scenario if possible-having coffee, reading a book, experimenting in a kitchen, exploring outside, taking a crafting class. When thinking about the scenario, pick something that can happen without anyone else’s buy-in. It’s nice to think about being with friends and lovers, but their participation in our lives is outside our control. Try to keep this daydream to what you could achieve by yourself. (The idea of being happy in your own can be part of the fantasy for now, if need be.)

Now answer these questions about your daydream:. What’s the season? What’s the weather? What time of day is it? What are you doing? And once you know the specifics of those sensory, experience details, answer the “where are you living?” question for the daydream.

Next step: whatever city you lived in in your daydream is now your fallback plan. Start telling yourself “in spring of 2022, I’m living in ______, and doing _____”. Substitute “spring” for whatever season is most appropriate for your ideal weather answered above.

Note: you don’t have to end up in that city in 2022, but it gives you a direction to move toward if nothing better comes up in the meantime.

In The Meantime:

Pack your entire life into storage and go on vacation. (I hope you don’t have cats or other small pets that will need caretaking). Rent a storage locker, identity the possessions that absolutely must be with you in your next home, and put them in storage—except for a suitcase or two’s worth of clothing. At some point in here, break up with your partner. Set things up so you won’t have to come back to see him next time you’re in town. Once everything is packed away and you have an idea of where your fantasy future self is living ~18 months in the future, go on holiday.

Take this first trip as 90% vacation and 10% considering living in the location. The idea is to focus on yourself, maybe mourn your break up, and also break out of your pattern of “home-focused” thinking. It’s exhausting to always be churning on the question of “do I fit in here? Do I feel safe and secure here?” So I’m suggesting you put yourself in a situation where that struggle isn’t an issue. This trip can be somewhere familiar to you or somewhere entirely new! But I hope you pick a place you know for a fact you will enjoy being for a week.

After that holiday, do some more traveling. Visit a city you’re curious about. Visit a city you have a good friend in. Visit your family back home, if that’s your thing.. Do this traveling a bit for pleasure, but also starting to open your eyes to the idea of somewhere being a future home.

If none of the places speak to you or if you panic and decide you don’t want to explore anymore, head to your “fallback fantasy” city to find a room or apartment. Say “whew, what a trip, but I’m here now!” and unpack your bags then retrieve the rest of your belongings from storage. Do the nesting and grow into your future-self fantasy from that original daydream.

If I had this kind freedom and mobility, I’d try on Anchorage, Juneau, Chicago, and somewhere in New England before settling in the PNW, or maybe coming back to LA.

Maybe there are strong reasons (besides the pandemic) you can’t pursue this kind of wandering experiment. But maybe reading it had let you shake up your thinking and change your perception of what is possible or what is possible *for you*.

I hope you find the solutions you need to break free of your situation
posted by itesser at 8:00 AM on October 16 [4 favorites]

Some years ago, I was in a similar situation and what I realized (after agonizing for months over the decision) is that there is no "right" time. You just need to leap. You need to force yourself. You know what you need to do now; just get yourself to do it. There won't be a time when you're suddenly not scared; you just have to do it anyway and trust that things will turn out ok. You sound like an accomplished, independent woman. There is much excitement and adventure in your future! Break out of this beige, boring life and push yourself towards it. Now is the time to be brave!
posted by yawper at 8:21 AM on October 16 [8 favorites]

Honestly? You sound like you've made the decision to go. So go. Look for something fulfilling; you sound a bit depressed and unable to enjoy life.
posted by theora55 at 8:35 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]

that option also feels very risky to me, going alone to an unknown place where I know no one… leaving a loving boyfriend and a known city behind to venture myself to the unknown

I did this and now I'm married to someone that I love and living in a place that I like a hell of a lot more than the place I left. You can have that too. It was scary and challenging and exhilarating and satisfying and I would 10/10, 100%, do it again.

My advice is to focus less on your romantic life and more on figuring out how to enrich your inner and outer solo life. What, besides a relationship, would make you happy? You mention nicer weather and a language you're fluent in, a culture where people are generally less reserved. Where have you traveled that had those things? Where could you travel that might?
posted by sm1tten at 10:59 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]

Assume that you will leave him. Now list all the practical considerations you'll need to decide on...like who will move out of the apartment and, if it's you, where you would stay. Figure out how you'll move your things. Make a list of various household bills that might be in your name. Know all these things before you tell him.

If you're not ready to decide where you'll live for the long term, you can get a place in the city you're in and decide later. You can go on vacation, or go back to your home country for a while.

Also, I agree with everything itesser said.
posted by wryly at 11:08 AM on October 16

Thanks a lot for your answers. They are very useful. Special thanks to itesser for his long and detailed answer that helped me visualize how I could go about changing my life.

I have a few things to clarify. I don't hate the city (or country) where I live in. It is a comfortable place, it's nice, there are interesting things to do... at the same time, I feel that I'm stuck here... I know what life looks like in this pace and how difficult it can be to navigate it socially and "linguistically"... I wonder sometimes though, if I would feel different in this place if I was with someone else… Also, I do have friends, hobbies and things that can anchor me but I still need to figure out where to live and how to go about rebuilding my career and social life elsewhere … but I guess I cannot go around that challenge…
posted by Fromthesouth at 12:19 PM on October 16

I don't hate the city (or country) where I live in.

I think the issue is, you don't hate it but you just don't really LIKE it. But you feel as if you're not allowed to have that feeling unless you can justify it with concrete, specific reasons not to like it, and if you can't do that, you "don't have a reason" to leave, which means you "can't" leave.

But you do have a reason. You have lots. They're all in your original post. All the good things you described in your update just now can happen anywhere. But the bad things aren't going away. Most of them aren't even related to the boyfriend.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:30 PM on October 16 [1 favorite]

Somewhat peripherally, I think you might be talking about my country, Germany! Anyway, I can relate a bit. A language that is almost impossible for foreigners to master, and though I am very lucky to be in a close-knit and international workplace, a lot of Americans and southern Europeans I know here still find it difficult after several years -- not all, and I don't mean to judge Germans or the others, but just to say that there are general, not exceptionless differences and you would not be the only one for whom they seem to make things difficult even after a long time. Quite apart from the boyfriend, I'd say that if you can afford to explore new places for a while that are more compelling, do it, that sounds like a dream. And you describe him as your good friend; there's a risk, but there's also the possibility that if you were to decide that you want to stay with him after all, he'd understand and there'd be a second chance.
posted by melamakarona at 12:46 PM on October 16

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