Hunt or Heart?
May 9, 2006 2:58 PM   Subscribe

HelpMeGiveGoodAdviceFilter: My very early-20s friend is in a long-term relationship approaching two years. They love each other, they love each other a lot, but he's restless for the "hunt" among other issues. I'm torn between telling him settling down is inevitable in any LTR and cautioning him not to commit himself too early before he's gotten his play out of his system. There's much

There are other complications. They're great together, but there are a few key issues that make him raise his eyebrows (philosophies about life, change, etc). He wonders whether he could find someone more perfectly compatible, or if he would be giving up an excellent relationship for what might be a pipe dream.

His girl is the kind of girl he'd like to settle down with a decade from now when he's ready to. Right now he wants to move, to travel, and he wants a partner who shares his interest in seeing the world and challenges him in a way he feels his current girl doesn't.

I don't know how to help him, given that I don't have much relationship experience myself. I don't want him to abandon what could potentially be a long and happy marriage, but I also don't want him to hitch himself up too soon and end up with a short, angry marriage between people who realized too late they weren't ready for or compatible with each other. I think their philosophical differences could be and should be worked out, but at their age is it worth it?

It's easy to say "Follow your heart", but these situations are confusing and it's hard to tell what the heart is saying. Again, one part of me is caught between the idea that if he's going to be with her very long-term, there should be no question in his mind whether or not he wants to do it, the other part says we all have to make compromises in our relationships and the desire to be with other people and find something better will never go away.

Could older, wiser MeFites offer advice and anecdotes about this sort of situation? What should I say to him? How can I best support him?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total)
 
Frankly, all you can really do is watch and wait. I don't think you should be trying to offer him advice, especially if he isn't asking for any.

It's his life, to screw up as he wishes. Ultimately it has to be his decision, too.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:14 PM on May 9, 2006


one part of me is caught between the idea that if he's going to be with her very long-term, there should be no question in his mind whether or not he wants to do it, the other part says we all have to make compromises in our relationships and the desire to be with other people and find something better will never go away.

Yes.

And you'll get both answers here, depending on the personality of the person answering. Most people are faced with this dilemma, and that's when life becomes a gamble.

To me, a relationship with someone I love -- and who loves me back -- is worth paying any price. To others, it's not enough.

The best you can do for your friend is to help him take stock. What if he gives up the girl, travels the world, and then realized he gave up his best shot at marital happiness? Assign a negativity value to that. Now, what if he sticks with the girl and never gets to travel the world. Negativity value? Which is worse?

Also, is it really an either-or thing? If they love each other so much, it sounds like something they can work through. Have they really given it their all? Has he communicated with her about these issues? Has he explained the depth of his wanderlust? Maybe they should watch "Rear Window" together and learn something from Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.
posted by grumblebee at 3:32 PM on May 9, 2006


I've been in a similar situation myself and I can tell you that, regardless of what advice I might've been given - I had already made up my mind on the matter. For the most part, the decisions made in relationships are made very early on and are rarely changed thanks to outside advice. Your friend probably already knows what he wants and is looking more for an excuse for his position than any actual advice.

Just tell him to make the decision he feels is best and then tell him to stick with it.
posted by myodometer at 3:54 PM on May 9, 2006


My very early-20s friend

That's a really key piece of information. If this is the right relationship, time will tell. If it isn't, time will tell.

If I were you, I wouldn't give him any advice, unless he asks for it, and even then all I would advise is allowing things to unfold in due course and not rush into anything. Things are still too much in flux in your early twenties to go making lifetime commitments. There is plenty of time for that later on. It's time to see the world and get a sense of your place in it.
posted by ambrosia at 4:01 PM on May 9, 2006


Its hard to say what your friend should do, but I can say that I was a very different person in my very early twenties, and that eventually me and the person I was in an LTR with changed so much that we outgrew each other and grew in very different directions. This might be the kind of thing that you can only realize about yourself after its actually happened, though.
posted by missmobtown at 4:01 PM on May 9, 2006


His girl is the kind of girl he'd like to settle down with a decade from now when he's ready to.

He may not have that choice.

posted by lekvar at 4:08 PM on May 9, 2006


Gah! Please pretend I closed the [bold] after the first sentence.
posted by lekvar at 4:09 PM on May 9, 2006


I've been in a similar situation myself and I can tell you that, regardless of what advice I might've been given - I had already made up my mind on the matter. For the most part, the decisions made in relationships are made very early on and are rarely changed thanks to outside advice. Your friend probably already knows what he wants and is looking more for an excuse for his position than any actual advice.

Just tell him to make the decision he feels is best and then tell him to stick with it.
Flagged as fantastic advice.

I made the mistake of listening to friends who thought I should have been "finding myself" and "seeing other people" when, in reality, they couldn't have known what was best for me.

Your friend is better off taking advice from no one at all. If he doesn't know what he wants, he'll figure it out; but the less input, frankly, the better.
posted by anjamu at 4:18 PM on May 9, 2006


Right now he wants to move, to travel, and he wants a partner who shares his interest in seeing the world and challenges him in a way he feels his current girl doesn't.

This decision has already been made. He's fishing for people who'll be on his side when the fallout starts.
posted by ChasFile at 5:00 PM on May 9, 2006


they love each other a lot, but he's restless for the "hunt"

Does not compute. If you love somebody a lot, you're not restless for the hunt. ChasFile is right: This decision has already been made. Don't give him advice, just listen and be supportive. And when in a few years he moans about what an idiot he was, bite your tongue and offer him another beer.
posted by languagehat at 5:43 PM on May 9, 2006


Myth alert.... 'What if he gives up the girl, travels the world, and then realized he gave up his best shot at marital happiness?'

What are the odds that this fellow chose his BEST possible mate from the 3 BILLION living women on the planet first time? Zero, or pretty damn close.

Mr/Ms Right does not exist. One is either ready or not to settle down, and barring an undisclosed pathology on the part of the selected mate, the success is pretty much under one's own control. When you are ready, it's not hard.

Also, IMO and supported by copious data, perpetual human monogamy is not the norm... it's the exception. Friend will probably mate 'until death do us part' several times before it's over. ( My fundamentalist sister in law is on number 4 and has some explaining to do to her personal savior about those broken vows in the afterlife! )

I'm not at all a pessimist in these matters, but really, the bedrock assumptions rampant in this thread haven't really got a lot of support. The world does not work this way, at least in North America in 2006. Humans are serially monogamous. It's just better to plan on it and certainly, not to be over concerned with life long plans when one is in one's early 20's and only recently achieved complete ossification of one's bones.

I wouldn't advise him unless he asked, but if he did, I'd heartily suggest delaying "permanent" mating until much, much later. Youth is for young pursuits. I think he's on the right wavelength and needs to see the world first. The number of potentially good mates is virtually unlimited.
posted by FauxScot at 5:43 PM on May 9, 2006 [2 favorites]


As grumblebee so aptly says, "Most people are faced with this dilemma, and that's when life becomes a gamble." This is, in some ways, the most basic conundrum of being an adult -- several options are in front of you, each with their own pros and cons. (come to think of it, this also sounds like an episode of "The Amazing Race.")

There's not really any way for any of us to say what is the right advice for you to give in terms of how your friend can make the right decision; indeed, I would argue that there may very well not be a "right" decision, just different decisions. In other words, it's not a case "marry the girl = good" vs. "travel the world = bad"; it's "marry the girl = one potential life" vs. "travel the world = another potential life." Each opens one door, while (potentially) closing another. And he could very well be happy (or not) by going through either.

So yeah, I don't know that there's any specific advice you can give -- save, perhaps, for the suggestion that he trust himself and his own instincts as he moves forward. As part of that, though, I would say it's important to encourage him to actually make a decision (not that it has to be right this very minute), rather than to passively have a decision made for him (for example, he behaves so noncommital and confused for so long that he essentially forces his girlfriend into breaking up with him, thereby getting to travel the world by default without ever having actively chosen it).

Believe me, there's a world of difference in a life lived based on actually making choices (whether easy or difficult) vs. a life lived by perpetually settling for the default option.
posted by scody at 5:48 PM on May 9, 2006


When I was in that position, I broke up with the guy.

Smartest thing I ever did.
posted by konolia at 6:10 PM on May 9, 2006


Myth alert.... 'What if he gives up the girl ... and then realized he gave up his best shot at marital happiness?'

What are the odds that this fellow chose his BEST possible mate from the 3 BILLION living women on the planet first time? Zero, or pretty damn close. Mr/Ms Right does not exist.


I understand your reasoning, but for some of us it's more complicated than that. My wife -- as far as I can reasonably tell -- is my best shot at marital happiness. I WAS ready to settle down for about ten years before I met her, but I didn't meet anyone I wanted to settle down with. Since meeting her, I've met hundreds of other women -- many of whom are wonderful, sexy, and intelligent -- but I haven't met one that I'd consider marrying, even if my wife left me.

It's not that my wife is "Ms. Right" or fated to be with me. I don't believe in any of that crap. I think it's about how quirky I am, and how all-important it is to me that the person I'm with is my best friend and "gets" me.

Sure, planet Earth has a big population. I'm sure there are other women out there I could click with on that level. But I'd have to be lucky enough to meet them first, then we'd have to be friends long enough to build up the required amount of intimacy and shard history for her to be my BEST FRIEND.

If anon's friend is dating his best friend -- and if, like me, he doesn't easily make friends on that level -- he should consider very carefully before he puts that relationship at risk.
posted by grumblebee at 6:18 PM on May 9, 2006


What languagehat said, what ChasFile said. You either want to be with somebody, or you don't.
posted by JanetLand at 6:21 PM on May 9, 2006


I think there's a huge difference in being ready to settle down and waiting till you meet someone who clicks with you, and not being ready to settle down. It's not that it'll be totally easy to find someone else, just that if he's not ready for a long-term relationship, then it's unlikely that anyone will be a Ms. Right until he hits that point.

But I agree with the idea that you shouldn't be giving advice, you should be giving support. Let him explore ideas without necessarily pushing him one way or the other.
posted by occhiblu at 6:29 PM on May 9, 2006



When I was in that position, I broke up with the guy.

Smartest thing I ever did.
posted by konolia at 9:10 PM EST on May 9 [!]


When I was on the opposite end of that position, the guy broke up with me.

Smartest thing he ever did.

(I ended up MUCH better off)
posted by sarahmelah at 6:51 PM on May 9, 2006


Life is full of regrets. Your friend must assess what he'd regret more: walking away from a relationship he may later decide was "the one" (and possibly breaking her heart in the process) or staying and risking (a) growing away from her for whatever reason and breaking up later anyway (& presumably "losing" all that time), or (b) living a life always wondering what life would have been like if he'd lived the adventure. (b) shouldn't be a problem if she's really "the one." (a) is the risk we all face - if we're commited to the wellbeing of the other (which is the best working definition of love as opposed to infatuation) - it's something you work through.

Welcome to the big leagues. Whatever he decides, tell him to live his life purposefully and with commitment.
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:59 PM on May 9, 2006


If you love somebody a lot, you're not restless for the hunt.

No, if you love somebody, then you're not restless for the hunt. Love means different things to different people, so focusing on whether someone is or isn't in love is oftentimes a red herring. It doesn't matter if dude loves his girl or not. What matters is that if he wants to be with more than one person, then he does not want to be with only one person.

There are people who come around who are so cool that you just want to be with them forever, or for a while, however long that is. To say that everyone is always looking to trade up at all times isn't really true for everyone.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:40 PM on May 9, 2006


He's young, he should stop thinking about his future wife, and start making decisions that will make him happy right now.
posted by Packy_1962 at 12:41 AM on May 10, 2006


This decision has already been made. He's fishing for people who'll be on his side when the fallout starts.

Seconded. Or thirded, whatever.

The number of potentially good mates is virtually unlimited.

Wha? This kid may never find love in his life to rival what he has now. We have no way of knowing. Not everyone is that great at finding mates in the first place. And it's very easy to take someone who loves you for granted, and wish you had something else.

I made that mistake when I was 18. But once the decision is made, the mind is really great at rationalizing all sorts of bullshit reasons to justify it.

Then decades later (or maybe it doesn't take that long) you realize what you threw away. Regret in this area has a certain crisp flavor of burn to it, I find.

Either that or you realize what a great decision you made and live happily ever after with someone who is worlds better for you than the one you left behind. :D

If he's not already feeling loyal towards her, having someone try to talk him into it (or even trying to talk himself into it) isn't going to help.
posted by beth at 6:17 AM on May 10, 2006


His girl is the kind of girl he'd like to settle down with a decade from now when he's ready to.

I don't really see this as an either / or situation. It seems pretty clear that he's definitely not ready to settle down yet. But why does that necessarily mean he has to break it off with his girl? Not being ready to settle down leaves two options in my mind: stick around for a while and see how the relationship grows - there's always time to travel later. Or, travel the world for a bit and look up the girl when he gets home - if she's "the one", she'll still be "the one" when he's done travelling.
posted by geeky at 8:01 AM on May 10, 2006


he wants a partner who shares his interest in seeing the world and challenges him in a way he feels his current girl doesn't

This doesn't sound like a choice between travlling and settling down. It sounds like he loves somebody he isn't sure is right for him, which is a whole different problem.

This is not something you can advise him on. All you can do is listen and nod and make the appropriate noises.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2006


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