Relationships are hard
July 22, 2021 12:44 AM   Subscribe

Is it insane of me to unravel an eight year relationship in the course of a month?

I have always been indecisive with everything in life and making a drastic life decision like this is the scariest feeling. I'm not sure what I need. Perspective? Affirmation? Help?

Without getting into too much details, I basically fell into an emotional affair overa month ago, and it escalated to us kissing twice but not beyond that, and the whole thing made me question everything about my own relationship, one I've been in for eight years where we've entangled every aspect of our lives and put a lot of work into. I am 34 and we were heading toward having a kid so this is all just real shit timing. I've come clean about everything and we've been talking honestly. He's upset but wants to work through this. There is a lot of love here, but I don't know if I ever had that deep guttural physical pull toward this person. We just have so much going on otherwise that it was fine with me to not feel. We get along well and it is easy to with each other mostly. We do have a sex life and I enjoy the sex we have, but I just don't feel the "want", if that makes sense.

I've spent the past few weeks out of our home, and the more time I'm away, the more it's surfaced other issues that I wasn't happy with in our relationship, most of which I understand can be workable through therapy and talking, but part of me just isn't sure if it's too far past. And the little things have build up over time, and now for the first time I'm being honest with myself about the physical chemistry aspect. I've been not home for two weeks and basically have planned to not be home for the next month. We've started couples therapy and I have my own therapist as well. I feel immense guilt about all of this and for dumping this all on a person I do care about, and I feel even guiltier thinking that I'm possibly dragging this out longer than necessary just because I might be too scared and guilt-ridden to act. I'm trying to just let time pass, but every day feels like eternity.

I'm struggling with the idea of unraveling an eight year mostly-good thing over the course of a month, and feel frightened that I might regret this later on. I know there's another person involved here that I haven't mentioned much. I have kept as much space as possible between us for the last few weeks, because I don't want to be making my decision based on them and their actions. I know all about limerance and NRE and all that, but also know I'm feeling an intense thing that I've rarely if ever felt in my life. It's nigh impossible to separate emotionally, but I'm trying.

I understand I did a shitty thing, I know. I have had some panic attacks already as I'm trying to figure out who I am through all these things I never thought I'd do in a million years. I feel like garbage most days and just don't know if I'm convincing myself to give up a mostly good thing to chase this idea of a relationship in my head that I don't know if exists.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If there wasn’t another person involved, would you still be thinking of leaving? In other words are you unhappy enough in this relationship to leave and face being alone, because there’s no guarantee that anything will eventuate with you and this other person anyway.
posted by Jubey at 2:12 AM on July 22, 2021 [25 favorites]

It's a little hard to tell with the lack of context, to say definitely what the right decision would be, but I would say that you need some time alone to think through what you want. And consider whether you would prefer a life without your current partner. Eight years is sunk costs; you have the rest of your life to consider. Also: eight years is a long time, consider why you have been in a relationship in which you have some issues -- are you the kind of person to settle for okay, to suppress your feelings?

I wouldn't put any guarantees on the other person being there when it is all over -- I have had incredibly intense feelings for other people back when I was single, but sometimes those intense feelings, upon approaching the cold light of the day, would fizzle out very suddenly, i.e. holiday crushes.
posted by moiraine at 2:29 AM on July 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

Oof. I could have written almost exactly the same question a few years ago.

In my case, the relationship with the other person didn't work out. Indeed, it ended up being extremely awful for me. The limerence and insanity and love-bombing nature of it turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg of many red flags that I dismissed at the time because it felt so right and it was with someone I had known for a long time and thought I knew well. Hint: I did not.

Anyway, there's no telling that my story will be yours, but I'd caution you very strongly to try to separate your feelings about this new relationship from your feelings about your old one. In my case, the fact that I'd had the affair showed me some major fault lines in my old relationship, which would have been there with or without the affair. But the affair clouded everything, and made it really difficult to not only figure out my feelings but treat my old partner as well as I should have (which I feel very guilty about to this day).

My best advice to you? Go into individual counselling. That is what I did then and it is the only smart thing I did. It helped me get to the root of what had made me do this -- a lot of issues, it turns out -- and the counselling also was essential for me to survive the deep depression and breaking-down of both relationships that followed.

I hope this isn't too scary for you, but on the other hand I needed to be scared. I nearly threw everything in my life away for someone who turned out to be terrible for me. That said, it is years later and I'm wiser and scarred and sadder but also in a better place in my life than I have been in years. (So is my old partner; we managed to remain amicable co-parents and indeed are still friends even if no longer romantic).

Good luck. You are not a bad person for doing this -- it's probably an indication of some real unmet needs -- but be really, really careful because a lot of people (including yourself) could get very hurt in ways you don't even foresee right now.
posted by sir jective at 2:31 AM on July 22, 2021 [31 favorites]

Sorry, I just saw that you already have your own therapist. Good. Focus on trying to understand yourself and don't make any irrevocable decisions just yet.
posted by sir jective at 2:37 AM on July 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

My two cents is to end the emotional affair and then evaluate whether you would like to continue in your current relationship. These two relationships are independent and you need to create space for yourself to evaluate your eight year partnership. If you decide to end the partnership, then you can look for a new relationship and include your new insights about your needs and wants in a romantic partnership.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 5:34 AM on July 22, 2021 [11 favorites]

I know all about limerance and NRE and all that, but also know I'm feeling an intense thing that I've rarely if ever felt in my life.

Right, and that's limerance. It's not special, it's not unique, it's just limerance. Do not let your horny brain trick you into thinking that your experience of limerance is an indication that this is anything but a passing burst of novelty seratonin.

BTW, it's not called the Seven Year Itch for nothing. This is the time to plow work into your relationship, learn how to make the sex hotter, and work together. (If your partner isn't also willing to do the work, that's different, but doesn't seem to be the case here?)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:57 AM on July 22, 2021 [40 favorites]

You might get something out of reading Come as You Are, which talks a lot about these nuances of desire: enjoying vs interested-in vs driven, the subtle difference between "I don't feel attraction" and "I feel inhibited," etc. I don't have a particular conclusion that I think you should come to by reading it. I just think spending some time reading about this stuff might inspire you or shake some things loose in your mind in a way that helps you get unstuck, and that book is the best discussion of it that I know of.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:00 AM on July 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Also: You don't have to be in a hurry. You're allowed to be with someone for a long time without being certain they're who you want, especially if you're working towards certainty—people do it all the time, and sometimes it's what the relationship needs.

Try to be okay with the uncertainty, and reassure yourself that you won't let things stay in limbo forever, that being patient today doesn't mean signing up to be infinitely patient forever.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:04 AM on July 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've come clean about everything and we've been talking honestly.

I can't tell if you're talking just about two kisses, or whether you're also being honest about your lack of desire for your partner and the way you still currently feel about the other person. It is a world of difference.

I'm feeling an intense thing that I've rarely if ever felt in my life. It's nigh impossible to separate emotionally, but I'm trying.

Does your current partner know this? If they don't, then their choice to work through this and stay with you isn't an informed choice.
posted by headnsouth at 6:21 AM on July 22, 2021 [11 favorites]

Well the shortest answer I can give is that yes, it's insane, and that it also might still be right and necessary. It IS called the seven year itch for a reason, but sometimes that reason is that 7-8 years is about as long as you can tell yourself things are fine when they aren't. Other times it's because 7-8 years is as long as you can coast without work. Only you can know which is going on here.

I could have written your post word for word except instead of an emotional affair I had a global pandemic. A gross truth about myself is that I have an extremely hard time ending a relationship without a "reason." Like a concrete, irreversible, can't-unsee-this-thing, everyone-agrees reason. "I just kind of dread this whole thing" or "I think I just want a relationship that feels different from this" somehow doesn't count for me. It's because I'm both a coward and a people-pleaser. Is this you, also? Did you think, maybe for years, "well maybe when X happens we'll break up," or idly surf apartments on craigslist, and then talk yourself out of it?

Did the conversation about having a child strike some deep terror in you about change and permanence, and you lashed out with this affair? Or did it shine a light on something important about you and your partner? Or heck. Maybe you really did just meet the right person at the wrong time. It does happen, though absolutely nobody wants to ever talk about it.

You did a shitty thing, it's going to hurt like a motherfucker for a long, long time. Even if you end up with your new person, even if that person ends up being great, it's still going to absolutely just fucking crush you out of the blue on a daily basis for...well, it's been over a year for me, still going strong with the twisty guts and the shame. But you'll live, your partner will live, that other dude will live. This is just the hard stuff. Good luck.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:27 AM on July 22, 2021 [18 favorites]

Maybe focusing your entire life on one person isn't for you. Maybe rethink whether agreeing to limit your feelings towards other people, as well as how you relate to them physically, feels right. Most of us love more than one person simultaneously and there's no particular reason why that should be limited to non-romantic relationships. Since you broke a monogamous agreement with your current partner, it's less likely that you will be able to build a life like this with him, but think carefully on whether monogamy is for you.
posted by metasarah at 6:46 AM on July 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I am 34 and we were heading toward having a kid. Is there a component of shaking everything up that is fear of taking such a step?
posted by theora55 at 7:55 AM on July 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Having a partner who you can be open and honest about that kind of thing means so much. I think you are right to be wary of dropping them. That kind of comfort doesn't come around every day, and you can't find it again by just finding the right person; it takes time. I had that some years back, and ended the relationship because I realized that I didn't feel ready to commit to that person. I have to trust myself that I made the right decision, but boy — there were days when I regretted it and missed her so much. That kind of love is so much more valuable than the wild energy of someone new. It's harder to find, and it takes more time and work to develop.

At the end of the day, you have to do what feels right. A committed relationship like that is a big decision, but it's easy to end up in one without ever feeling intentional about it. And that can make the whole relationship feel like a lie! Even if it's not.

It sounds to me like you appreciate all this, so — here's me validating your experience. What you're going through is hard and valuable and necessary. Take it one day at a time, I promise it will be okay.
posted by billjings at 9:03 AM on July 22, 2021

Go, because wanting to leave is enough.

This is a harsh thing to read, and it may not help you right now. But just because this relationship is mostly good doesn't mean you have to exhaust everything before walking away. Sometimes everything can be perfect on paper, and yet it's not ok.

It's ok to leave because you want to leave. It's ok to realize that you need something you've been living without. It's ok to say, this person isn't the one I want to be with. It's not easy, but it's ok.

It's also ok to take some time to yourself to think about what you want. This hopefully won't be the last time you meet someone who gives you that special something something; what do you need to do to be better prepared in the future? What support structure can you build for yourself for when this situation happens in the future? These are important things to consider.

But if you're looking for permission to leave, that needs to come from within. And it's ok to want to leave, and it's ok to leave. You're not a bad human for wanting that.
posted by disconnect at 9:10 AM on July 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Well, it is a terrible idea to blow up your life over a theoretical relationship that is statistically unlikely to survive the shockwaves, just because you have pantsfeels that you're confusing as special when they're just unfamiliar. There will always be a seductive lure to someone new because you haven't spent years conducting the boring and slightly unpleasant aspects of life alongside them. Sparkly pantsfeels are easy at the start of a relationship, and generally require more effort later on.

But a lot of people manufacture that explosion in order to create enough upheaval that they can leave because they legitimately want to, and the pantsfeels are incidental though they do create an unfortunate sense of incentive to leave and start fresh (with someone else though, it's rarely the person who was at the explosion site).

All you can do is work on the exact questions you're asking. From watching it happen to other people, I don't think the majority of relationships make it after this; I think once it's revealed that one person has one foot out the door, the other person ends up heading that way too. It takes a very enthusiastic spirit, I think, to say "okay, let's build this think back up from scratch, that sounds fun". I'm sure it's incredibly worth it if that succeeds, but I think not many people make it across that finish line.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:34 AM on July 22, 2021 [13 favorites]

I went through something very similar recently - at the the cusp of the age of 30 when the baby talk started (my partner really wants one and I don’t for various reasons), I ended up having an emotional affair with a guy. We never met because of the pandemic but it was the most intoxicating, intellectual connection I’ve ever experienced. And also because we never met, despite being crazy about him, I had the space to realise (it took MONTHS and therapy) that he wasn’t that special and yes our connection was sparkling but the intensity was amplified by my fears: fears of impending motherhood, potentially falling ill again (I have a fluctuating health issue that’s thankfully mostly disappeared for now), the need to make up for lost time (the years I was ill). I also realised that I really needed to talk to my partner – we have been together for so long that we just ended up taking each other for granted. And for what it’s worth, we are in a better place now. Still haven’t resolved the baby stuff but at least we talk about it openly now.

Just so you know you’re not alone, not a bad person for feeling the way you do. Things will fall into place.
posted by bigyellowtaxi at 9:45 AM on July 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

Go, because wanting to leave is enough.

This is shitty advice to give someone who hasn't even said they want to leave.

OP, you say you understand new relationship energy and limerence but nothing you've written suggests this actually is the case. I mean you literally follow the claim that you understand these things by saying you're "feeling an intense thing that I've rarely if ever felt in my life" which you should understand is limerence.

None of the foregoing necessarily means that your current partner is a good lifelong match for you, but as others have pointed out the "seven year itch" is a real thing even in the most solid of relationships. Right now you and your emotional crush are sharing only the best parts of yourselves with one another, discovering new things and having deep conversations getting to know these idealized representations at a shallow level that feels deep, sharing limerence and so on. There is no way a partner of seven years can compete with that. After seven years you've already had arguments with your partner, you've already farted in each others' presence, you've already had those long talks about your favorite David Bowie albums, you've already been over every square inch of each other's bodies, you've already passed through the period of limerence, and so on. So, yeah, you're getting a lot of things out of your crush that it would be impossible to get out of a relationship partner of eight years, and given this disparity it's not unusual at all for you to be examining all the things that aren't 100% satisfactory about your relationship and your partner. This is an impossible comparison that's impossible for your partner to "win." I would urge you to put some real though into what you would be giving up if you were to leave your current relationship, and at the same time give some serious consideration as to whether your crush would be actual relationship material for you minus the limerence, nre, new discovery of idealized selves, etc. How well do you even know this person?

None of the foregoing is meant to say that your current relationship is as good and mutually satisfying as it should/could be, or that you should necessarily remain in it. But it absolutely is meant to say that there's no way you can make those judgments and perhaps make some adjustments in your relationship dynamic if your brain is in a fog due to this other person. Leaving a relationship for or because of another person of romantic/sexual interest, especially of such short duration, almost never works out well. If you unravel your relationship, don't let that be the reason.
posted by slkinsey at 9:49 AM on July 22, 2021 [14 favorites]

I had a similar experience except that I already had kids, and the thing went beyond kissing, and I didn't come clean right away (but did later). When I finally did come clean, it went shockingly well because my partner essentially said "yeah, I was an asshole then and I wasn't meeting your needs" and I said "this would never happen now because now I don't want to lose what we have when then I didn't care if I lost it". The difference between one and the other was a bunch of individual therapy for both of us. I loved him, but didn't like him a whole lot for a while there, and when I was finally able to articulate it, and he took it seriously, and got help and worked through his own anger and empathy issues.... well, effort is sexy. We are years past that now, and while the pandemic has caused some relationship fatigue we talk about it, and we recognize that we came through was is almost certain to be one of the hardest seasons of our relationship to the other side, and we will with this too.

It's a lot of fucking work to maintain a relationship. Even more with kids. Figure out why you let yourself slip into limerence (boredom? fear? self-sabotage? lack of intimacy? feeling neglected? is he an asshole and you haven't articulated that? ignoring your needs? has needs of his own you can't meet and he's lashing out or withdrawing? there's so many possibilities). Whether you stay or go has to depend on the answer to that. Some of them are workable. Some of them aren't. Your therapist will help you delineate it.

You will eventually be okay if you decide to leave. You may very well be okay if you decide to stay - and you can always leave later if the effort isn't helping.

Wishing you well through it all.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2021 [11 favorites]

and we were heading toward having a kid 

Might this be relevant? I.e. are you maybe a little conflicted about "settling down forever" or somesuch?
posted by Omnomnom at 11:27 AM on July 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Can you think about it from the perspective of your future self? Down one path you stay with your partner, work it out, and ten years down the road are married with a second-grader. How does that feel?

What about the “leaving” path, without that partner or that kid? What would it feel like to be with person 2 ten years down the road after some/most of the electricity settles down? What would it feel like to be alone and dating?

You might like to read the book The Post-Birthday World, about a woman in a similar situation to yours (with a beloved if not super exciting steady long term partner, and a sudden lightning attraction to someone else). At the “choice point” of whether to cheat or not, the book bifurcated into two universes, one where she pursues path number one, one where she pursues path number two. It’s not a moralizing book and neither path is perfect; if I were in your situation I would enjoy reading it to stimulate thoughts about my own situation.

Good luck anon, this sounds hard.
posted by hungrytiger at 11:35 AM on July 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Seconding Come As You Are. It might help identify something that was missing before.

Also seconding dpx.mfx. If possible, consider what needs that the new person is meeting in your life that your current significant other is not. I don't just mean something like a sexual pull or a level of intensity, but something else. Validation? Attention? Just being there physically? Congruency or consistency? Are you over meeting the other person's needs and undervaluing your own?
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:02 PM on July 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I will add this, again from the perspective of a year-plus out from the breakup: whether it turns out that the couples counseling and this period of "working on it" reconciles you two, or merely formalizes and draws out the breakup, I think you will be glad you did it. My chief regret at this point is that I did not.

I told myself I didn't want to give my ex false hope, and didn't want to get myself talked/guilted into staying. (And also in the early days of the pandemic you just...couldn't...really make a counseling thing happen for awhile?) And all of that was true! But the actual experience was very traumatic for my ex and I hate and regret that I put him through that sudden, shocking abandonment. And it didn't spare him the false hope--turns out that's a thing people do to themselves, not a thing you do to them.

So keep at it, keep tabs on your own feelings and don't make any sudden, irrevocable decisions (and holy cats don't get pregnant), and don't worry about "dragging things out."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:38 PM on July 22, 2021 [9 favorites]

I was where you are (except we already had the kid), right down to the emotional affair that turned into a couple of kisses. I ended up leaving (not to be with the other person).

You say that the affair has made you notice the flaws in your relationship, but I don't get a sense of how you felt about the relationship before that (aside from not feeling strong physical attraction). I would say that if you weren't having strong misgivings about the relationship before this, maybe you should give it a chance, at least until the limerance fades.

That's just me guessing though. I would also recommend giving this book a read - it was instrumental in helping me feel confident in my decision to leave:

Too Good To Leave Too Bad To Stay
posted by missrachael at 12:50 PM on July 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I agree with Blast Hardcheese here. I don't regret trying to stick around and fix the relationship of mine that's most similar to this — two good kind people who loved each other, but it still wasn't meeting my needs. I'm sad it didn't work, and incredibly relieved that I finally did leave, and the time in between is bittersweet. But I'm very glad I still stayed for a while and gave it my best shot.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:54 PM on July 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine how belittling it must feel to be physically attracted to someone for the first time in a decade and be told that the feeling isn't "special." It isn't "special" for many of us, because it happens all the time. but if you are serious and not being selective with your memories, this is special to you and it does no good to anyone to pretend or minimize it away. you are saying this isn't something you had with your partner and gradually lost, but rather something you never had with him in the first place. if you are sure about that, you are not wrong to care about it.

however, you would be dead wrong to mistake its importance to you for a promise that it's yours for the asking. you say you're aware of that, but seriously, you have to believe it too. a choice between a guy you can have a friendly partnership & a child with versus a guy you can have physical passion with is a serious choice, it isn't stupid to care about the second thing. but if you end your current relationship, not only do you not know that you can have this other guy, you definitely don't know if you can have him (or if you will want him) permanently, and you don't know that there will be others just as good right around the corner. so you have to be careful about the illusion that you are choosing between boring love & physical passion - you're not. you have to think of it as choosing between boring love & nothing. and then if you still feel unhappy and guilty and want to get out, you know you're making the right decision.

I think honesty was a bad idea unless you were pretty well decided to leave & wanted to make sure you couldn't second-guess yourself, because I think being told that a longtime partner never felt any particular sexual pull to you is pretty brutal. even if he says he can work through it, it seems likely to fester. not to mention that you still feel that way. so I kind of figure that's why you laid it all out - not just out of respect, but to box yourself in so that you would have no real option but to leave. by saying he wants to work things out, he is forcing you to do all the active deciding yourself, twice, rather than make it easy and inevitable and mutual. which really is his right, and you can think of the guilt and discomfort as a way of paying him back, sort of, for the pain he is presumably feeling.

but guilt is always a reason to behave well, never a reason to stay as penance. If you don't want to have a kid right this minute so badly that you're willing to return to an unsatisfactory & now damaged relationship just for the chance of that - don't.

also it's not shit timing, it's fabulous timing. shit timing would be right after you got pregnant. Thinking of this as the bad time rather than as the best time suggest to me even more strongly that you would feel better if circumstances forced a decision on you. but they won't.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:29 PM on July 22, 2021 [16 favorites]

I think your emotional affair was a gift--you are really looking at your relationship. Lose that crush dude, though, and figure out life on your own.

Don't beat yourself up because you are not into your partner, he should be with someone who craves him.
posted by rhonzo at 2:45 PM on July 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think you need to end both relationships in order to evaluate what you want. It is not fair to your first partner to stay in the relationship, given what you've described here. It's also not fair to you to have to try to build a relationship based on the current situation with your new partner. It may feel daunting to break up with both partners, but I think it will lessen your heartache in the long run.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 3:13 PM on July 22, 2021

This was me at your age. I wish I'd broken up then rather than let things drag on and then discover the wonders of singledom and starting over with someone you're actually in love with without having wasted the intervening ten years.

I agree with other posters though, that the new guy isn't the point here. Forget about him and make the decision from there.
posted by tillsbury at 3:51 PM on July 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Someone I loved deeply and who loved me back broke up with me passively by cheating. The person she cheated with didn't last - it was clear this was the only way she knew how to end our relationship. After many years, we've come to feel loving fondness for each other and recognize we are better not together. I hope you get support to become a person who can have more clarity on your own needs and be honest with yourself and your future partners. But it sounds like you want to, and intend to break up with your current partner. Now is a good time to start being honest.
posted by latkes at 5:23 PM on July 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's interesting that you say you lack a real physical yearning for your partner (and you never had it), but that you fell into an emotional affair. That makes me think something else was missing too.

In a perfect world, we are all emotionally healthy and intelligent people who make rational, sensible, thoughtful decisions about the relationships in our lives, and we always treat ourselves and others with kindness and respect, and we gently but firmly end monogamous commitments before we start something else.

In our not-so-perfect world, sometimes we fall into emotional affairs and make out with people because we don't really want to face the truth of our current relationships, and we are trying to force the issue, or we are looking for distraction, or we find something we didn't know we were lacking.

Sometimes our longer-term relationships are great and the emotional affair makes us realize we want to double down on that commitment. But sometimes we need to be honest with ourselves that we knew what we were doing, even if we let ourselves fall into something new before we extricated ourselves from the old thing. Sometimes we lack the courage to end something not-great without something we're fantasizing about to pull us forward.

Folks always say to end things with both people to know what you really want, but that's so hard to do. I think if you end your long-term relationship, of course you are likely to date this other person. My understanding from my therapist is that most relationships with affair partners don't last, even if the other relationship ends. So don't count on that person being someone you can or will be with.

But it sounds like you aren't wanting to stay in that relationship. Don't fall for the sunk-cost fallacy. Just because you've been in a relationship for a long time isn't a reason to stay in it. And do not think a child will improve it.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:40 PM on July 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

I knew someone who did what you did - was with a long term partner for close to a decade, about to have kids, and then boom. She met someone and they began an affair and she left her partner and is now married to the new dude. They had what seemed to be an intense, crazy, passionate romance, but (again from the outside) he seemed to be unstable, manipulative, and narcissistic. In the last pics of her I saw, she looked tired and worn out. The thing is, she really was unhappy in her previous relationship and I think she made the right choice by leaving, but I don't think the new dude was good for her either. My analysis of the situation is that because the first dude was so good "on paper", she didn't feel justified in leaving even though her soul was crying out for it. So she found/co-created an experience that was intense enough to "pull" her away.

I'm thinking out loud here, but maybe this intensity is not coming from the dude, but coming from you. Because you want out, so you need to create something that's so intense that you can't ignore it. If that's the case, then you should probably give yourself permission to leave, but stop seeing the new guy and see what happens if you just sit with the feeling of being free for a good long while. I encourage you to be wary of the new dude.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:41 PM on July 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

I could have written this myself two years ago. I was in an almost-eight year relationship with someone whose company I enjoyed but with whom I had very little sexual chemistry; we had a shared mortgage and had lived together for five years. I met someone else and after a night of making out with them I had decided to call it quits on my relationship and did so two weeks later (with a lot of guilt and stressing out about logistics in between).

It ended up being a great decision that I haven't regretted for a minute. In retrospect I was pretty desperately unhappy in that relationship for a number of reasons – a key one being the bad sex and lack of attraction – and the new person was a catalyst for a change I needed to make.

For what's it's worth the new person and I are still together, I'm still super attracted to him and we still have amazing sex. We also have a much more open, fun, creatively inspiring, emotionally enriching and intellectually stimulating relationship than I had with my ex, as well as more interests in common and more mutual friends. In many ways I feel like my life has blossomed and become something I didn't think I could have before, and I feel immensely lucky. (I also thank my lucky stars that everything went down before COVID hit).

I feel bad about putting my ex through what must have seemed like a breakup that came out of the blue, but I know that he is also better off for having been broken up with rather than continuing to be in a relationship where one partner wasn't happy.

Feel free to MeMail me. Reading previous Asks from people in similar situations was incredibly helpful when I was going through all of this.
posted by RubyScarlet at 10:07 AM on July 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Just to add to the above, my decision to leave would have still have been a good one even if my new relationship hadn't worked out. And I was very clear with the new person and (I like to think, at least) with myself that there was no pressure for us to make things work because I'd broken off a long-term relationship over it. For me the new person was a catalyst and an incentive to leave and I'm glad it worked out, but I also would've been happy with the decision to break up with my ex regardless.
posted by RubyScarlet at 10:20 AM on July 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

A lot of people telling you to work on your existing relationship here, but for me, this spoke to me so hard:

I don't know if I ever had that deep guttural physical pull toward this person.

So, for me, and this is my experience only, I felt like that with my ex of 6 years. When we broke up, I deeply and very painfully missed his companionship, his beautiful personality, but I knew deep down that ours was not and had never been the love I really wanted for myself. When I emotionally cheated, I too was horrifically guilty, but it was part of the catalyst that led to us separating, and we're both now so much happier with other people. It doesn't change that we had brilliant times together, but I'm so grateful that we split, whatever it took.

So now, with my current partner. The difference. If we were ever going through a rough patch or (worse!) a "meh" patch, and I met someone new and crushed on them, nothing would ever change the fact that I know and clearly remember how deeply and passionately I fell for my partner. I still, after 7 years, love him with every part of me, and that is just a world different from how I felt with my ex. Even if I didn't feel like it in that moment, I would remember that it was possible.

My feeling these days is that people grow and change their whole lives, and if we're really lucky, we meet someone and grow and change together, mostly, so that we stay attuned and connected. But I think that's not the norm people think it is. If you've grown apart from your partner or, as I did, grown to the point where you can see that he's not as right for you as you thought he was or might one day be, it's ok to leave.
posted by greenish at 12:42 PM on July 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

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