Eenie Meenie Miney Mo, pick a love and make a go.
July 22, 2006 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Which love option should I choose? [Much, much

Option 1: The one that is smart, aloof, intelligent, handsome, cool and artistic. You were swept off your feet by this one and you knew within a year of meeting that this was the one you wanted to spend your life with. This one challenges you to be a more creative person and would be an excellent parent, challenging the children in the same way. This one is your dream on paper but in reality things are more complicated. The sex is infrequent and always has been. And then there was the breakup, detailed below, which you still aren’t recovered from. You’ve been together a very long time and you think that they’ve pretty much pegged you as the marriage and parent of their children type and not the type that is exciting to be young with and have fun. And you are young.

Option 2: The one that is uncultured, uneducated but street smart, calm and comfortable, constantly makes you laugh, adores you and wants to spend time with you always. You have amazing chemistry with this one and time together flies by. The sex is amazing and exciting. You feel super confident when you are with this one. But you can’t help but bump against the ceiling. In the back of your mind you constantly wish they were taller, better educated, less traditional. You suspect that long term you won’t be capable of settling for the conventional life that this one requires and that this one will get frustrated with you not fitting into their conventions. You’ve been good friends with this one for a few years but only romantically involved for a few months.

Background: I had been dating #1 for nearly a decade. #1 is my first serious relationship. Due to an early mid-life crisis type thing #1 dumped me and disappeared. After about 9 months, right about the time I was regaining feeling in my fingers and toes and considering leaving my house again I told the whole story to my friend, #2. #2 took the opportunity to confess hidden love for me and we fell into dating. After a few months of happiness with #2, #1 came back like a tornado and said he wanted me back, claiming that the breakup was just to get us out of our rut and never meant as permanent. So then I had to choose.

Now I find myself endlessly plaguing myself with questions over it, flip-flopping and driving myself bonkers. When I’m with #2 I wish for the stimulation of #1. When I’m with #1 I wish for the comfortable feeling I have with #2.

Are either of these choices suited for the long term? Which would be the better situation to raise children in: a home filled with cold creativity or a home filled with run-of-the-mill passion? Can you find happiness with someone who doesn’t understand you intellectually? What about someone who doesn’t understand you sexually? Neither option is closed to me at this point and I’d love to hear opinions, especially from those who chose someone like one or the other.
posted by hot little pancake to Human Relations (62 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd stick with #2 but doubt that one will work out either. #1 left you in a bad way and seems to want his cake etc. I don't know if you'd be able to get past the breakup.
posted by sweetkid at 10:31 AM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Keep looking.
posted by spork at 10:40 AM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

And you are young.

As I said last time, I'm sure, there are millions of fishies in the sea, especially if you're young. Dump all the baggage and find someone else.
posted by muddgirl at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2006

The one that is smart, aloof, intelligent, handsome, cool and artistic

The one that sounds like an ass? Whatever happens with Number 2 stay far, far away from him.

[analyst]I think your real problem is that you are letting these men define you and you doubt you ability to have any significant effect on them or to be an equal part of the relationship. There is no reasons you can't be with Number 2 and still be creative and cultured and no reason you can't influence your kids any way you want to. If he loves you he'll just see those things as aspects of your personality he adores.

It also sounds like it's important to you to have a mate who others see as successful, attractive and smart. If that's the case then it's really not fair to stay with Number 2 [/analyst]
posted by fshgrl at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2006

Which one is more likely to want to make a commitment right now, for life? Because it sounds like that's what you want.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:49 AM on July 22, 2006

Hot little pancake, I'm concerned about the coolness of #1 and the infrequency of sex. Please make sure he does not have a hidden interest in hot little blintzes.
posted by jamjam at 10:53 AM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

If the answer doesn't strictly have to be between "option" 1 and "option" 2, then neither love option is best.

1 is an absolutely wrong choice - he bolted once. People who do that will do so again, and his excuse is flimsy.

2 is wrong mostly because of you and not him. He deserves someone who will love him for who he is.

Ergo neither.
posted by xetere at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2006

Take a break from the two of them, go on a weekend trip alone, and write a list of what you consider imperative to have in your life. Keep it under 10, 5 would be best.

Come home, evaluate whether you will find 80% of what's on your list with either partner. If one is lacking, move on. You deserve better.

Personally speaking, both infrequent sex or being on different intellectual levels would be a major problem, and I wouldn't let a relationship go very far emotionally if that was the case -- but that's because I've decided that sexual and intellectual connection is equally important. But it isn't to've just got to decide what you value.

They both sound like they've got great things to offer to a relationship, but from your conflicted feelings it sounds like you might just need to find someone else who does offer all of the positive things you see in them.
posted by saffron at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2006

Today's my day for deja vu, and here you are again as promised, hot little pancake (great nic, btw), so here I am again:

#1. You'll feel like taffy at times, all pulled and stretched, but it's better to be challenged, than to be worshipped.

But here's what I didn't tell you, last week:

I was #1, thirty years ago. So, I might be biased. And, no, it didn't work out for us in the long run. But it was a really interesting and at times, really hot run, while it lasted. And it might have lasted a lot longer, if it had been just a touch less interesting, or a bit cooler, here and there. I'll never know, and I have my regrets, but in our case, my wife eventually crawled into a bottle, and then, into her boss's bed, which all had to do more with the coke spoon her boss kept handy, than it did with pulling and stretching. Still, I like to think it could have worked, in the long run.

Which is why Al-Anon still does a land-office business.

And, on preview, spork has a point.

Now, let's talk about you, shall we? What do you think, really? What do you hope to get here by asking? And, what's wrong with rock-paper-scissors?
posted by paulsc at 11:05 AM on July 22, 2006

I'm very much with fshgrl's comments: you appear to let these men (and their attributes) define who you are. I also find it interesting that you don't really talk about how you feel with either of them, except to say that #2 makes you feel "super confident" -- though, to be frank, the way you talk about him makes me suspect that what you really feel is superior to him (which, if that's the case, brings up two points: 1. one partner's feelings of superiority to the other are eventually kryptonite to a healthy relationship, and 2. I wonder if any hypothetical feelings of superiority towards #2 are analogous to any feelings of superiority that you perceive #1 feels towards you?)

The thing is, you've set up this binary that doesn't exist in real life, because there are more than two men out there! You can have a relationship with someone who understands you sexually, intellectually, and creatively. It just doesn't appear to be in the cards wiith either of these two guys, no matter how much you appreciate their respective qualities.

My advice? Take time off -- like a year -- from the whole relationship thing, spend the time pursuing your own endeavors on your own terms, and then start looking for #3 down the road.
posted by scody at 11:08 AM on July 22, 2006

Isn't this a repost from a week or so ago?
posted by A189Nut at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2006

I gotta agree that #1's completely ridiculous argument that he dumped you and disappeared from your life for 9 months in order to "get you out of your rut" is a bad sign for things ahead. He's a liar (or worse, a person who conveniently reorders his recollection of the past in his own favor) and he's refusing to take responsibility. Next time maybe he runs out on you and the kids. You should tell him in absolutely unambiguous terms that your relationship is over forever.

I'd question whether these doubts about #2 started before #1 came back, but no matter how you put it it sounds like you don't consider this one long-term match material. And if someone was having the thoughts about me you're having about him I would want very much for them to get it over with and let me be free of a relationship with no potential. You could stick with it longer and see how it develops, particularly after you take #1 out of the equation altogether. I doubt it'll go anywhere, though.

I suspect you very much do not want to end up alone out of this but I'm throwing my advice in with the Option 3 crowd. I think #1 is a bad fit who showed his true colors when the chips were down, I think you wouldn't have gotten into it with #2 if it hadn't been for the context of the difficult breakup, I think you deserve better than #1 and #2 deserves someone who wants the same things he does and is not covertly judging his intellect, education, cultural bias and height, and I think you need to be on your own for a while and work on what you want out of life - and become comfortable with the idea of pursuing that by yourself.
posted by nanojath at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2006

I agre with everything scody said except the last phrase: "start looking for #3 down the road."

Don't go looking for love. Love sought doesn't seem to last as long as love that "happens" when you're not seeking it. Don't let these two guys define your character, go out and find your own way. Love will come around on its own good time. Coincidentally, when it does come around, the timing should be just about perfect for you, too.
posted by Merdryn at 11:14 AM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

A189Nut, because of the way the prior post was worded pancake that question was deleted because it asked like she just wanted people to chat about a decision she'd already made. She communicated with the admins about rephrasing it so it was more accurate and appropriate for AskMe. I think the question's past should be kept out of the discussion now.
posted by nanojath at 11:15 AM on July 22, 2006

Don't go looking for love. Love sought doesn't seem to last as long as love that "happens" when you're not seeking it.

Oh, I agree that it's important not to go chasing after a relationship merely for the sake of being in one. But I don't think it's true that all the best relationships are the ones that just fall out of the sky when you're least expecting it. I wouldn't have met my boyfriend -- easily the best relationship of my life -- if neither of us had posted a profile at Salon/Nerve Personals. Sure, we might have found each other otherwise (it turns out we both had a friend of a friend in common) but it's more likely that we would have never found each other if we both hadn't gone looking.

posted by scody at 11:35 AM on July 22, 2006

posted by dontoine at 11:48 AM on July 22, 2006

If you can't see yourself happy with number 2, keep looking and go with neither.

But as someone whose 23rd wedding anniversary is coming up...there will always be a glass ceiling in a relationship. If not now then a couple years or so down the road. No one person possibly can fill every relational need you have. The best you can do is find one who is good to you, who you are sexually attracted to, who will be a good parent, and who has the character to commit even when the going gets tough (and there will always be something. That's how life is.)

If you wait for Mr Perfect, you will be alone (and I know people who did just that and regret it.) OTOH that doesn't mean that Mr 2 is The One, but of the two options you present, he'd be the better choice in the long run. Could you see yourself happy with him if there was no number one? If not, cut them both loose and keep looking.

I commend you for thinking thru this though.
posted by konolia at 11:57 AM on July 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

claiming that the breakup was just to get us out of our rut and never meant as permanent

I don't know what you think, but this seems like a bunch of crap to me. I hope you called him on it. It really seems from your post like he just couldn't stand to see you having a good time with someone else.

Anyway, that doesn't have a whole lot to do with my main point which is that you have something in common with number 2: you both need to learn not to take any shit from your partner about how you're not good enough for them. Yes, I know nobody in either situation has overtly come out and said that, but I think the point stands.

I think you could possibly be happy with number one if you're prepared to be more assertive and you can find some solution to the sex thing or with number two if he's prepared to be more assertive. If he was dealing with you in a way that suggested that he really valued himself and believed that he was worthy of you, you would not be preoccupied with wanting him to be "better".

The problem is, both of these elements involve aspects that are out of your control to some degree. One the one hand dealing with the sex thing with number one involves a lot of input from him and it's possible you may just be fundamentally incompatible in that way. On the other hand, number two has to find some pride from somewhere and show you what he's really made of - he almost certainly does have it in him, but the question is: what would it take to get it out? I was a #2 once and it took weeks of screwing around with my head before I finally snapped, took my dignity back, and told her I wasn't going to hang around for her any more. In retrospect it was one of the most valuable experiences of my life, but I have to stop short of recommending that you do that to your guy and yet at the same time don't really have a better suggestion.
posted by teleskiving at 12:16 PM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: fshgirl: Interesting points. I think that with #1 I know I can't be an equal part of the relationship but with #2 I would be too much of the relationship. I always let #1 get his way and #2 always lets me get my way.

Having many years experience with #1 and previous experience in a #2 type life (how I was raised) I know fairly well how I react to both situations. I always come back to the idea that #1 is what I need and #2 is what I want.

I guess for me this boils down to a central question of my life: If you can't have both, is it better to be great or to be happy? I think that's why I want to choose 1 or 2. Balance will come later but sometimes to make a choice it's best (for me) to boil it down to its most essential elements and take one extreme or the other.

Writing this question and reading responses is proving really helpful to my thought process which had become hopelessly stalled. I think that I'm tempted by #2 because after the disaster with #1 I really needed happiness. But when I am thinking straight I choose #1. I wish I could take a #2 vacation to recover then proceed with my life with #1. But that wouldn't be fair to either.
posted by hot little pancake at 12:34 PM on July 22, 2006

And option #3 is a no-go?
posted by saffron at 12:40 PM on July 22, 2006

Due to an early mid-life crisis type thing #1 dumped me and disappeared.

and we fell into dating

#1 came back like a tornado and said he wanted me back, claiming that the breakup was just to get us out of our rut and never meant as permanent.

But you can’t help but bump against the ceiling. In the back of your mind you constantly wish they were taller, better educated, less traditional.

Frankly, #1 sounds like he doesn't respect you and you don't sound like you respect #2. Lots of people would kill for the amazing chemistry and sex you talk about with #2, but you're hung up on what he's not as opposed to the amazing things he is.

Stop dating both of them for a few months and sort yourself. Learn to love people for who they are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on July 22, 2006

The first one isn't really into you. #1 is a bad choice, at least for now, while you are young and not the kind of person he wants to be in love with while young. Just rule him out.

So now that 1 is not longer an option, what do you think about the second guy? He's totally into you. You are into him -- for now. Maybe later too, you don't know. It wouldn't be a mistake to choose him -- unless you have doubts that are nagging you now.

But more realistically, if you're in love with two people, or at least straddling the fence between them, then neither one is right for you. Either say good-bye to both of them, or stay with #2 while it still feels right.
posted by wryly at 12:51 PM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: Well, option 3 isn't that great since I'm trying to choose between two good lives for myself. I want to pick the best one of the two good options I have.

And it doens't have to be forever, but I do have to make a choice to move forward.
posted by hot little pancake at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2006

You are willing to settle for a Good life when you can have so much more?
You say: I think that with #1 I know I can't be an equal part of the relationship but with #2 I would be too much of the relationship. I always let #1 get his way and #2 always lets me get my way.
Neither of those are healthy relationships and I think you should get out of the city for a few weeks and really think what's best for you

posted by wheelieman at 1:06 PM on July 22, 2006

You’ve been together a very long time and you think that they’ve pretty much pegged you as the marriage and parent of their children type and not the type that is exciting to be young with and have fun. And you are young.

You should never ever have to be just someone's "marriage and parent of children" type. That's a great way to end up dumped (or worse, divorced) when he all the sudden meets someone that fulfills both marriage material and also young and fun material. Why is he settling for you? Do you want to be with someone that believes (correctly or not) that they are settling for you?
Of course, you've made it pretty clear that #2 is someone that you are settling for. There is nothing wrong with being in a fun relationship that you don't see a future in, but it seems like you're expecting to be in a long-term situation with one or the other of these guys.
You say you're young. Well then, quit worrying so much about this crap! #1 is a bad deal. #2 is fun, so have fun with him, but for god's sakes you don't have to marry the guy just because you're having fun. Just make sure this is clear to him, so that he has the chance to find his own person that isn't settling, if that's what he wants.
Two serious relationships really isn't enough for many people to really know what they want/need from a life partner. Honestly, you sound like you fall into that category. Don't be afraid to try again.
posted by ch1x0r at 1:07 PM on July 22, 2006

Okay, if you insist you cannot move forward in your life without one or the other (although the reality is you most certainly can move forward, you're just choosing not to), then here's my non-#3 assessment.

#1 is an ass who doesn't really respect you (not to mention doesn't sexually satisfy you).
#2 is a good guy who you don't really respect.

#1 is out (that's a no-brainer no matter how handsome, smart, and cool he is); #2 is in if and only if you can embrace and respect who he is rather than pining for what he's not. Whether or not you two are just having fun or looking at a serious relationship, #2 does not deserve to be treated the way you've been treated by #1... but frankly, that's kind of the picture you're sketching. He's not a fixer-upper, he's not the male equivalent of Eliza Doolittle, he's not someone to pass the time with till #1 comes back like a tornado again (and I bet he will); he is a human being who sounds like a solid, decent, lovely guy who deserves someone who really appreciates him and celebrates the chemistry they have between them, period. Do you have it in you to be that person?
posted by scody at 1:14 PM on July 22, 2006

Hot little pancake, I really think you need to consider the (perhaps scary) option of dumping both 1 and 2. I think you are defining yourself by your relationships, instead of just defining yourself. I think #1 is out, because he doesn't treat you with respect. #2 is a possibility, but I am concerned you are on the rebound, rather than honestly in love, or suited to him. You say that he confessed his love to you during a conversation as friends, which suggests to me that you had never considered him attractive before. I think you need to get away from both of them, and find out who you really are and what you really want, not who-you-are-in-relation-to-another-person. Have you considered therapy? I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with you, simply that it might help you understand yourself (and your needs) better, and break out of this binary relationship worldview you appear to have talked yourself into.

And in answer to your earlier question 'is it better to be great, or to be happy', I would answer that its better to be happy. You can be happy at home and find challenges at work, or in hobbies. Being unhappy at home and looking or happiness outside the relationship is unhealthy IMHO.
posted by Joh at 1:16 PM on July 22, 2006

"... I want to pick the best one of the two good options I have. ..."
posted by hot little pancake at 3:55 PM EST on July 22

Eminently sensible. You and #1 may not be MFEO, but there is something there that you recognize, that the other people in this thread don't. And he does love you. How would I know? Well, because it's a 2,400 year old situation, brought down to us by no less a personage than Plato, in the mouth of his mentor Socrates, in a Dialogue called the Phaedrus.

This piece is actually a long discourse on the art of rhetoric, in 2 voices - Socrates (who asks his usual bunch of irritating but illuminating questions) and a young man of the countryside, Phaedrus (fay-druss). They meet again as friends who know each other, while Socrates is out for a walk in the countryside, and the younger Phaedrus is eager to tell the wise Socrates about a wonderful speech he's just heard, that is very convincing on a topic which should have been nearly impossible to argue.

Socrates listens to Phaedrus recite the speech, and questions whether it is as good as Phaedrus makes it out to be. Socrates is then challenged by Phaedrus to make up a better one on the spot, which Socrates does, but still Socrates thinks there is a better set of arguments to be made, and gives yet a third speech, of surpassing excellence.

The topic of all these speeches should be of interest here, which is "Why should a young lover give (him/her)self to an older man who doesn't love them passionately, but can take care of (him/her)?"

Interested in what Socrates has to say?

I thought so. You really should read it for yourself, but it takes a bit of work to get his points, and they are pretty foreign to modern ears. If you do get into it, there are dozens of excellent commentaries that can help. But basically, he says that it is preferable to give yourself to one who does not love you passionately, because passion will not last, and even while it is present, it makes the relationship unstable, and injurious to the persons involved.

He's wooing Phaedrus, of course, to abandon his passionate enthusiasm for rhetoric, and become a student of deeper philosophy, but that's yet another level of how this whole thing works.

Anyway, from ancient Greece, to your ear, for what it's worth...
posted by paulsc at 1:39 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Interested in what Socrates has to say?

Never take advice from anyone who willing drinks poision.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:48 PM on July 22, 2006

Just out of curiosity -- how old are you? Because (a) if you've never been a grown up single and (b) if these are the only two people you've ever been with, then you might want to take some time off, do some soul searching, figure out who you are, and then maybe a #3 will come along who's juuuuust right.
posted by echo0720 at 2:02 PM on July 22, 2006

"Never take advice from anyone who willing[ly] drinks poision."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:48 PM EST on July 22

Why not?

After all, Socrates had pretty good reasons for chugging the hemlock, didn't have to if he really didn't want to, did it to make a point he thought was absolutely central to his civilization, and knew that by doing so, he'd spite the very people who'd given him that choice, by depriving them of his wisdom, just when they needed it most.

He was right, too. Within a generation of his death (30 years), Athens, not paying attention to what Socrates had taught, was thrown down from being the leading Greek city-state, to being just vassals of others.

It never pays to diss the old man...:-)
posted by paulsc at 2:05 PM on July 22, 2006

option 3 isn't that great since I'm trying to choose between two good lives for myself.

Oh, and one more thing: you can have a good -- even better life -- by choosing option 3. You seem to be stuck in this notion that the only way you will have a good life is A) in the company of a man, and B) that these two men are your only options. Both assumptions are false. You can choose to have a good life, relationship or not. No partner can magically bestow upon you a good life -- it is each of our responsibilities to make one for ourselves. Your good life rests entirely in your hands, not in the hands of #1 or #2.
posted by scody at 2:07 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

And you are young.

Then you are worrying about this way too much, because you're picking a boyfriend, not a husband.

Obviously, you think you're picking a husband, but it's crystal clear that you need to date around a lot more first.
posted by bingo at 2:14 PM on July 22, 2006

Consider doing what I did, when I was trying to make up my mind about leaving my husband: Sit down, alone, and make a list of all the things that would change for the better and for the worse should you not choose that person. ( I ended up with almost 10 pros and 1 con for dissolving the marriage. I hadn't realized that it was that bad until I did that.)

If you're determined to choose one of these two, no matter whether either will give you a happy life, try the above.

I have to admit to being a bit puzzled by your determination to make a choice between one of these two, right now, no matter what.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 2:29 PM on July 22, 2006

When this came up last week I said "go with the one who makes you laugh" -- i.e. option number 2.

But now I don't even think you should go with him, as there seem to be pretty substantive reasons that would prevent you guys from being compatible long-term. (I speak of the education thing, and the traditional values thing.)

And ultimately, if either of these guys was The Guy For You, you wouldn't be asking Internet strangers for advice on whom to choose. You would know.

Thus I must add to the chorus of those saying you should choose neither.

Do the Kelly-from-90210 thing and choose yourself.
posted by hazelshade at 3:45 PM on July 22, 2006

You asked whether the heart should trump the head. The answer is that you need to find a balance, because neither is most important. Guy #1 is head-centered, as am I, so I like him. Guy #2 is heart-centered, as was my ex-girlfriend. The difference for me is that while you can have a conversation with guy #1 about exactly what I'm talking about, you'll never be able to have that conversation, explicitly, with #2. It either works or it doesn't. I tried my best to connect with my heart-centered ex, but she doesn't resolve things by talking about them, she resolves things by going through emotional tempests and eventually coming to feel a certain way. Are you comfortable with that kind of problem solving process? It seems to work for some people, but you sound like the kind of person who likes to talk about things, so you might have trouble. I'd hate to see you make the mistake I made.

The secret to living a real life, instead of one where you're led about by the nose by your desires is to realize that you are both physical and spiritual. Your body has needs, but you aren't your body. Your spirit or soul or whatever has needs, but you aren't your spirit, either. You're both. I think you can tell this to #1 and he'll understand what you're talking about, but not so sure about #2.

One last thing: Passion fades, but understanding only grows deeper.

Now, go forth and stop making false dichotomies!
posted by Mr. Gunn at 3:51 PM on July 22, 2006

Best answer: I'm frustrated with this thread, and with hot little pancake in particular. I think Option #3 is the best route for the time being, but I think she's made up her mind to pursue one of these relationships anyway, no matter what the warning signs. It's frustrating to see someone throw away good advice.

pancake, we obviously can't tell you what to do definitively (and the nature of this forum is such that complicated questions are rarely accurately, completely stated or answered) but you should think about this for a minute:

Modern expectations of individuals in society are weighed heavily against codependence. This is a recent change in human history that society is not entirely accustomed to yet (there are too many awkward and frustrating interactions among sexes and romantic partners that cannot be reasonably solved), and it's in our nature to seek companionship, but the end result is that you are expected to exist on your own, as a single unit. Even in a relationship, most of your partners will not expect you to be a needy person unless they are somehow deranged. And you sound like you need a man right now - your ego is being propped up by your romantic life. Get away from that mentality immediately. Even if you want to continue having sex and going out on dinner dates, approach such things as occurances of good fortune and not ego-boosting activities. (That's only the short version of this particular piece of advice - the problem is too complex to address comprehensively here, even if I were allowed to type 50 pages.)

You're definitely not ready to have an emotionally fulfilling relationship with #2. I agree with the sentiment that it's an emotional favor to him if you break it off - he's not your type. You could certainly have a fling with him, but a real relationship would never work; plus, flings age like milk and are rarely lasting. You don't sound like you're looking for a fling anyway, and that would just complicate things with #2 and whatever other serious suitors you have around. So to answer the question, you can't exist with #2 as you indicated.

#1 cannot be trusted based on the evidence presented. If you go back to him now, you will regret it. The complicated answer is that if he had never broken it off with you in the way that he did, you could have fixed what was wrong. Since that seems to be the literal question, then the answer is yes, you could work it out with someone like #1. But it's too late for that now, because the answer is a solid "No no no" to the question "Can I fully trust someone who dumps me crushingly and then comes back at his own convenience?"

If you had to choose between the two, I would say: Make #1 take you out to dinner 4 nights a week and try to get on his health insurance plan if you don't have any yourself; on the side, make #2 buy a bunch of erotic self-learning books and make him your love slave (which he won't protest). Open your bank account to neither one. Dump both of them when you find a better man.
But my outlook is a bit warped, so take that advice with a grain of salt...
posted by brianvan at 3:53 PM on July 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think #3 is a good option for two reasons: one, she has stated it's not, and two, there is a solution to this.

Opposites attract, but they do so because each remains somewhat mysterious to the other.

H.L.P simply has to decide if she's the head-centered type or the heart-centered type, and with that in mind, whether she would rather be understood or excited. I would, and have, said to myself, "Passion fades, but understanding grows deeper", and I opt for understanding every time.

Of course, this is stating things in rather too-stark terms, but in a relative sense I feel comfortable saying that if she's going to post a question, worded the way it was, to AskMe, she's probably the type who understands things through words, and would therefore be more understood by someone who understands through words, guy #1.

The criticisms of guy #1 sound to me more like the criticisms of the guy who would play him in a daytime TV drama. People are complex and there's nothing in #1's actions that suggests anything disingenuous to me. Rather, it's a perfect example of the misunderstandings that come about when a heart-centered person tries to interpret a head-centered person's actions. It doesn't make sense to them, and is therefore suspect.

So, if you want to be understood, decide whether you're more of a thinker or a feeler and pick the guy who understands things using the same mode.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 4:28 PM on July 22, 2006

I agree with everyone who advises number 3. You need to find out what sort of person you are as yourself instead of one half of a couple. You may realize neither one of them is right for you.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:46 PM on July 22, 2006

So #1 broke your heart to get you two out of a rut? Lovely. If he's telling the truth, he was incredibly inconsiderate and selfish. If he's lying, than he's a liar. Either way, he's bad news. RUN, don't walk, away from #1. Stay with #2 if it feels right, walk away if it doesn't. But judge him on his own merits, not as a comparison to #1.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:08 PM on July 22, 2006

Mr. Gunn, no one's advising against #1 because he's the thinking type (personally, most of the men I've loved and adored in my life fit into that category); people are advising against him primarily because he treated her badly (i.e., dumped her, then came running back when she started seeing someone, proffering a lame and insulting excuse as to why he did it) and, secondarily, because they're sexually incompatible. It's got nothing to do with privileging one type over the other as a matter of principle.
posted by scody at 5:10 PM on July 22, 2006

Actually, scody, I think it does. People who primarily understand the world through feeling it(What's your Myers-Briggs type?) are suspicious of people who act strangely then try to explain their actions using many words. I know because I'm that kind of person, and I've learned that the more you talk, the more some people don't like you, regardless of your integrity and good intentions or the infalliability of your logic. I don't think he sounds any more inconsiderate or selfish than the average person. That's seen from my perspective because I can conceive of doing something like that and not being able to completely understand or explain why I have done it AND having completely good intentions. From your perspective, those actions are cruel, no matter what the explanation. I think he's a unique person who responded in a unique fashion to his circumstances, despite anyone's attempts to stereotype it or frame his actions according their particular perspective. I think he doesn't deserve the vilification he's getting here(I'm not him, BTW) from people who've been burned in the past by people they didn't understand.

Here's how you, H.L.P., and everyone can avoid those types of painful experiences in the future, and it's how she should decide he original question:

First, know whether you're a thinking, head-centered sort, or a feeling, heart-centered sort. Everybody's both, but people use one more predominately.

Second, take that into consideration when you're trying to understand someone.

#1 may not be the villian he seems, and #2 might just be an annoying boor. That's all the speculating I'm going to do.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:31 PM on July 22, 2006

Best answer: I tend to agree with option #3, but barring that...

Here's how it sounds: You say were with #1 for nearly a decade, and you are young now -- so maybe you got together in high school or college. He's your first love, understood you better than anybody else in world (as of high school). You have been with him for nearly all of the time that you've been figuring out who you are as an adult. You admire him, maybe even think he's a little smarter, a little cooler, a little "greater" than you are. (Almost sounds like it's an idolized older brother whose approval you want. When you say he challenges you to be creative, I can almost imagine he gives you little assignments, to instruct and improve you.) And it sounds like he might think the same.

That sounds to me like a relationship that could work, but that is very unlikely to lead to you being great. It seems likely to lead to you being (a) left by him again, or (b) feeling your whole life like you're a kid -- privileged to be in his company, struggling to keep up with his coolness. Neither of these is good news.

I don't at all mean he's a bad guy. I just mean it sounds like the two of you have established a pattern, from getting together very young and spending a lot of years together, that is not going to age well.

From what you've said here it sounds like it would be a mistake to get back together with him now. (Think of it this way: Maybe after you have apart for a few years, you could get back together. He will have had a chance to date people who are the kind he wants to have fun with when young, and you will have gathered experiences etc so you can be more of an equal to him in the relationship.)

It sounds like your relationship with #2 has surprised you in the easy fun togetherness it offers, in the warmth and love you're being shown, and the positive physical aspects. That sounds pretty good to me! It's a good chance for you to practice being happy, rather than thinking about the green grass in the other pastures.

I agree with the others who say you shouldn't lead #2 on and tell him that you see a long future together. But for the time being, this might be a great (short-term) relationship for you to just enjoy. Love #2 for who he is, and for what he has to teach you, which sounds like it might be quite a bit.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:44 PM on July 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

And another bonus two cents: if you follow all this advice and tell #1 that you're not coming back, don't say that it's because you're seeing #2 now. Because that won't be the reason. The reason will be that you've decided, positively, it's better for you and #1 not to be together. Whatever decision you make, it should be one you feel you can "own"!
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:58 PM on July 22, 2006

Best answer: Mr. Gunn: #1 dumped her and disappeared for 9 months. He then comes back (when, as she says, she was starting to be able to leave the house again), and says that dumping her and disappearing was to break them out of their rut? It sounds more like he broke her nearly out of her mind.

You say "I know because I'm that kind of person, and I've learned that the more you talk, the more some people don't like you, regardless of your integrity and good intentions or the infallibility of your logic. "

He isn't you. You have no idea what his intentions were. Nor do I. Don't make the mistake of associating yourself with a stranger and then defending him as if he were yourself. Neither of us has heard his "logic" nor do we know it was infallible as you say yours is.

When making decisions about the future, a person should always take past actions into account. He's proven by his action that he is capable of doing this. Whether or not it is with good or bad intentions, whether it was thought out with "infallible logic", he did this thing. If he could justify it to himself once, he could do it again.

If she wants to create a life with a person who has and could again just drop out of her life, that's her decision, but I would argue that it would be an emotional decision, not a reasoning one. After all, should they buy a home together, create debts together, have children, and then he has another reason to just disappear, she's the one left there with the kids, the mortgage and the credit card bills.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 9:23 PM on July 22, 2006

And in answer to your earlier question 'is it better to be great, or to be happy', I would answer that its better to be happy. You can be happy at home and find challenges at work, or in hobbies.

A million times word. I have a stressful job and if I had to come home and deal with the challenge of "greatness" in my own kitchen I'd kill myself. My bf is less educated than me, makes less money and is shorter to boot and I ADORE him. His attitude towards life and towards me is the best thing I know. My career is really important to me but if I got laid off tomorrow my happiness would not change substantially and that's such a great feeling.

And for the love of all that's holy, don't marry a guy you don't have hot, passionate, sloppy sex with because it's not going to get better.
posted by fshgrl at 10:05 PM on July 22, 2006 [4 favorites]

For what it's worth, I just went through my address book and totted up my friends who married their first serious relationship. of 8, seven are divorced and one is happily married. Make of it what you will.
posted by nanojath at 10:31 PM on July 22, 2006

#1 gave you the arse. Return the favour.

If you're determined to pick one of these guys, you're going to be looking outside your marriage for the kind of stimulation you're not getting from hubby. If what you get from outside is intellectual stimulation, this is going to cause you way less trouble than a strong desire to get sex from elsewhere.

Besides, lack of education is not stupidity. It's easier to learn things than it is to fix a busted sex drive.
posted by flabdablet at 11:43 PM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: I'm actually kind of surprised how many of you are saying that since #1 dumped me he should not even be considered. Maybe this is a derail of my own question but do all of you who said this, as a general rule, take a relationship as over forever once it's been ended by one or the other person? Because that has definitely not been my experience or observation.

And just to clarify again, I'm fixated on choosing one or the other with such voracity because the conflict represents one that I continually struggle with in various aspects of my life. I am, quite frankly, completely unsure if I am a head or heart person. I see and understand both sides of each conflict very clearly but I seem utterly unable to make a choice.

In reality I know that there is a 3rd option but for the purposes of better understanding myself I'd like to pretend there isn't. I've been struggling with this decision for so long now that by this point it's become very heavily metaphoric for me. I boiled the question down to its most essential features, described two people that I care most deeply about in a single paragraph apiece and gave my romantic history in 1000 words or less in order to really get at the question.

And from a less mechanical perspective, I would be lucky to have either of these men. I love them both and I am flabbergasted at having the choice. Both of them are great options for me in completely different ways. I hope you all understand that although I'm quite sure that didn't read in my question. And quite frankly, while I believe that a #3 exists somewhere in the middle, I don't know how happy I would be with the medium option. I'm oscillating between extremes, never settling in the middle. I like that these two are extremes. I just can't make up my mind which one I prefer.
posted by hot little pancake at 11:32 AM on July 23, 2006

HLP: I think people are not responding to the plain fact that #1 dumped you, but to the particulars you describe:

1. He' s aloof and, although great on paper or probably a great father or great person to know, he's not a good sex partner for you, and doesn't make you feel confident, secure in yourself, and loved. (You are surprised to get these feelings from the new guy)

2. He didn't just dump you, but "disappeared" after ten years together, apparently without explanation or contact for 9 mo.

3. Then once you start to pick up the pieces, he comes back all of a sudden, expecting to be welcomed back, and with a patronizing (even if honest) explanation of his actions.

I think the latter two are what's motivating the people who say "don't take him back after what he did."
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:47 AM on July 23, 2006

LobsterMitten hits it right on the head. You don't seem to feel special with #1, he dumped you and vanished for nearly a year, and when he did return, he did so with a flip, throw-away line and expected you to drop everything to take him back.

Also: See my response to Mr. Gunn as to why I think building a life with #1 is a bad idea.

In answer to your question, no, having a break up doesn't necessarily mean your relationship has to be over forever, it would be the circumstances of the breakup that would determine that. For me, at least.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 1:01 PM on July 23, 2006

Exactly what LobsterMitten just said. Also: It's okay to give things another try with #1 if you think you can trust him. It's not okay to jump back into things full speed and accept him the way you have in the past. You have to kinda start from scratch, like a new relationship with a familiar friend. It may not work out, and yet you make it sound like your #2 is the only thing in the way of a life of happiness with #1. Make no assumptions about how things will work out with #1. He might be your type, but you might never get back to where you were.

Stop looking at this as a metaphoric decision. You're entirely missing the point of entering into a relationship by doing that. Do not mix your soul-searching with your romantic desires. Again, that can end very badly.

Finally, denying yourself any other option is simply unreasonable. You do not need to be part of either relationship, and it's obvious that most people here think neither choice is ideal. So don't force the issue. No one here wants to tell you to commit to a poor relationship. (FWIW, I think #2 is a better relationship right now than #1, but it's all relative). I understand where you're coming from with the "heart/head" concept but there are just too many complicating details here. It's possible to end up in a situation where it's hard to choose between two suitable men, but the vibe that we're getting is that there are some very unsuitable characteristics of both your partners. Don't turn an easy choice into a hard choice. If your current status has you in a relationship with #2 and not #1, do nothing. If you are tired of #2, break it off and do not go back to #1. And most of us think that you're not going to last very long with #2 anyway, because you don't seem too enthusiastic about him.
posted by brianvan at 1:08 PM on July 23, 2006

HLP, I hope you see in the advice here the two perspectives I'm talking about.

Note that while both you and I can see both sides of the issue, there are some here who can't, and don't even realize there are two sides. That's a trait of the heart-centered, emotionally driven person. It's what allows them to have such great passion. The challenge for this kind of person is to separate themselves from the issue.

Does that resonate with you? Because it sounds like you're kinda taking the "problem in the abstract sense" route to the whole thing. Be aware that a trait of the head-centered logically driven person is to work on problems "metaphorically". It's what allows us to see both sides of an issue and is what is often referred to as cold and calculating. The challenge for this kind of person is to remember that our decisions affect people, who have feelings and may respond to things irrationally.

I think this has been a great thread, because it shows this distinction between the two types in such stark contrast.

Best of luck whatever you have chosen or will choose!
posted by Mr. Gunn at 3:26 PM on July 23, 2006

pick number 1! the fact that he doesn't satisfy you sexually, sounds emotionally cold, and devastated you once by disappearing from your life are irrelevant - he's handsome, smart, and cool, and you're just so lucky to have his interest. besides, the sex always gets better, and men always warm up after a decade or so. he's a keeper. on paper, at least.
posted by fizzyliftingdrink at 3:27 PM on July 23, 2006

Mr. Gunn, I'm not sure that I see the advice here as especially emotion-driven or heart-centered. A lot of these replies have bullet points and are highly rational and pragmatic. (I agree with you that some people are very strongly heart-centered and some are very strongly head-centered, and that there can be conflict and misunderstanding between the two. However, I don't think all people are so strongly one way or the other, and it seems unduly dismissive of all the well-articulated considerations described in this thread to say that commenters "just don't see both sides of the issue because they are heart-centered".)

HLP, a lot of people are saying that #1 sounds likely to cause upheaval, drama, and personal uncertainty rather than set you on a path to greatness and/or happiness. These comments don't seem to be convincing to you. Having looked at your own comments again, maybe this upheaval and uncertainty is exactly what appeals to you?

He's aloof, you're not sure if you have his affection or not, he left without explanation and came back like a tornado -- that sounds terrible to me, but maybe it sounds exciting and challenging to you. If you're really a person who craves drama, then #2 will probably not make you happy.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:57 PM on July 23, 2006

Best answer: "... I've been struggling with this decision for so long now that by this point it's become very heavily metaphoric for me. I boiled the question down to its most essential features, described two people that I care most deeply about in a single paragraph apiece and gave my romantic history in 1000 words or less in order to really get at the question. ..."
posted by hot little pancake at 2:32 PM EST on July 23

AskMe is such a narrow venue for getting all Adlerian or Jungian. Just as well, as I'm no therapist, and h.l.p. here hasn't come here for therapy ;-)

What I am, is a guy who thirty years ago was (and pardon any apparent self-aggrandizement at this late date):
"cool" ✓
"aloof" ✓
"intelligent" ✓
"smart" ✓ (not at all the same thing as intelligent)
"artistic" ✓
"handsome" ♂ (I've got written testimonials, still in their scented, fading, and crumbly envelopes)

And I left someone who didn't want to be left for reasons that were genuinely external (job related), and then thought better of it, and so brought her along to a new life she said she wanted. Later, I watched her leave me to crawl into a bottle with a cocaine spoon up her nose, and have another man's baby, and lie to me about it all for a long time.

Let's just say, right up to that last part, I feel some similarities with characters in h.l.p.'s situation.

I feel like I might recognize #1 if I met him in a smoky bar. I feel we'd talk coolly, and take each other's measure awhile, and enjoy that circling, that awareness of unstated similarity across decades of life. There'd be a Bill Evans revivalist wannabe quietly vamping minor 7th and 9th chords under sparse, clean melodies in back on a piano, and the barkeeper would genuinely give a damn about the difference in drinks made with zest or peel. But #1 doesn't need a new friend, and the bartender's heard it all before. And as for me, well I'm perfectly capable, after all this time, of holding up my end of an almost non-conversation.

It's nothing more than an Internet forum level of conceit that I'd actually recognize #1 if I met him. But $5 will get you $9 he owns a leather jacket, and can wear black, but doesn't, much. Let's say, to be fair to the Jungians among us, if he did, it would be all but archetypical. But whether any of that holds or not, h.l.p. makes the perfectly valid point that we really know too little about her, #1, #2 or the circumstance under which #1 left her to safely extrapolate her future, and that our comments must therefore, necessarily, reflect more our own sensibilities, than solid bits of life advice. Reading back in this thread, our own sensibilities are a lot of what has been posted.

Fair enough, h.l.p., and yet you're here, for the second week in a row. Let me strike off in a new direction, an undiscovered country insofar as this thread is concerned, but one to which I might have an old, worn map. Let's talk about #1.

What he needs, as far as he can know at the moment, is h.l.p., because he's back "like a tornado." Tough to be a tornado, and still be cool. But cool is what kept her around for 10 years, and cool is what he truly, aloofly, is; but now he's got to be urgently cool, too, to overcome breaking up with h.l.p., and so he seems more than a little agitated, maybe even like a man in his own emotional tornado. Not to get too Adlerian here, or anything. It's enough to make an intelligent man feel pulled and stretched in new ways, uncomfortable ways, himself.

What he needs is some way of convincing her that he finally knows that he needs her. Some way, that is, that can still leave him with some cool, some spot of himself that is still only himself (aloof), and some street smarts against the day it might, again, all go so badly wrong. Because while he's now convinced his life needs hers, he's not so sure she'll think that's the best thing for her life. After all, he's intelligent, and knows her for 10 years, and he's got to see something different in her face, now, that's got her posting here.

Nine months ago, "...Due to an early mid-life crisis type thing," he "dumped" her and "disappeared." That's a pretty minimal description, and admits of all kinds of thought processes in our man #1's cool, aloof, intelligent head. Maybe he thought he'd be a father by now, and was wondering why he wasn't. We don't know. Maybe, he thought he'd posed some important question to h.l.p. that was never gonna get a straight answer. We don't know. Whatever happened, he bugged out unexpectedly, and she didn't get it. She not only didn't get it, not getting it nearly crushed her.

Presumably, while she was out cold, flat on the floor of her house, #1 was gazing into the abyss himself. What was that, that Nietzsche said?
"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the Abyss, the Abyss gazes also into you." - Fredrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Been there. Done that. They were out of logo shirts that day.

But that mid-life abyss monster character is a scary sumbitch. #1 wouldn't be the first guy to realize that, and not want a t-shirt. You look, and it looks back. The truth of the universe, that you've journeyed far to find, that you've thrown over domestic comfort and tranquility to discover, that you've put your very cool and aloofness on the block to recognize, may just be that you look, and nothing looks back. Who'd want the t-shirt anyway?

So you trudge back to where you started, and you try to muster some shred of competent old school cool, and see what's what, and whoops, there's something different than you left. You can't go home anymore. Nothing just keeps looking back at you.

What do you do, now, Mr. Post Abyss Smarty Pants #1? Ideally, you'd be cool, aloof, measured, intelligent, and smarter. But that's not where a man winds up, generally, in the months after a trip to the abyss. The abyss pulls you and stretches you, like you were taffy, like it knows more than you do, like you should let it win, because it will, anyway. How the hell do you explain all that, even metaphorically, to a hot little pancake, who is busy explaining being numb on floor of her house to #2?

I have no idea. But I'd give long odds on the likelihood of any such unrehearsed explanation sounding pretty screwed up, to said diminutive pancake. The abyss tends to defy explanation, and the cognitive vacuum it creates is easily filled with false bravado and sheer stupidity. I know that (and so, I think, does h.l.p.), and so I win these bets so often, I can afford to give long odds, in these, my declining graybeard years. The other thing I know is that it is equally likely, that #1 is never going to explain his change of heart adequately, or that, if he does, it's going to be years from now, when she's given up waiting for it, if they're still together. And I do know, further, that it isn't all that important that he ever does, even though it will seem to many that he should.

I say this because I know that people can and do change, and often for reasons that they themselves can't fully articulate. If you don't believe people can change behavior, or philosophy or attitude, you discount education, you dismiss growth, and you deny the power of conscience and remorse. #1 is different now, for having been away. h.l.p. is different now, as well. You gaze into the abyss, it keeps gazing into you, sometimes from the eyes of those who thought they knew you best.

At any rate, following my map, that's where we leave, for purposes of this discussion, our man #1. Sitting on a bar stool, having not quite a conversation, wondering what the hell is going to happen, and whether the last 10 years have meant anything. We leave him there, to take up serious questions from a flapjack about whom we know far too little:

"Are either of these choices suited for the long term?" Maybe, maybe not. People, unfortunately, don't come with lifetime guarantees. Are you suited for the long term, you young little johnnycake, who comes here all disingenuous? What's your shelf life, with all your questions and struggles? How does stability get weighed with "interesting" in a funnelcake universe? "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." said Thoreau, but he wasn't recommending interminable desperation. The stats for long term happiness are against you with any man, much less either of these clay footed heroes, and if trends continue, will get longer in your lifetime. So, presume you'll eventually be the ex-wife of #1 or #2, for reasons that may come entirely out of your own future. Which would you rather have as an ex-husband? Which would you rather share custody of children with?

"Which would be the better situation to raise children in: a home filled with cold creativity or a home filled with run-of-the-mill passion?" Kissin' don't last, cookin' do. But kids are a wildcard, and they have their own ways of changing things. You can't know how a home is going to be for kids, until they come along. You think #1 could be a great Dad, but he won't be if you don't let him, when it comes time. You think he thinks you'll be a great Mom, but that may only happen if you have a level of support and help from him, that he can't know he can give, until he does. It's all a huge crap shoot, which most women get into in white dresses, hoping for the best. But you gotta to do your own math on kissin' and cookin'.

"Can you find happiness with someone who doesn’t understand you intellectually?" Sure. Maybe. Maybe not. How broad minded and patient are you? Where do you fit on the rocket scientist career path? Where does the Brawny Guy? Will he go grocery shopping alone, reliably? Will he buy feminine necessities for you, if you merely put them on the grocery list, and don't remind him when he goes out the door? These are the eternal questions of pre-intellectual existence, the existential verities of modern relationships at a quantum level, which even Sartre wisely ignored.

"What about someone who doesn’t understand you sexually?" This sex thing, it's big with you, isn't it? A wise woman upthread advised you "And for the love of all that's holy, don't marry a guy you don't have hot, passionate, sloppy sex with because it's not going to get better." I don't know about that; people do change. And sex never stays hot, passionate, and deliciously sloppy, no matter how much we'd like that. Especially through kids, and in-laws, and age and tribulation.

But you might be surprised what a man learns about a woman, staring awhile into the abyss. And then again, unfortunately, you might not. You might find that trying to open up a relationship with #1 to something you've known with #2 is terribly difficult, or impossible. You might find that trying is threatening to #1, and destructive to what little unsatisfactory sex you did have with #1. You might find a vibrator becoming your best friend. That would be bad. What you've got to ask is, what would be worse?

Would missing #1's obscure cultural references be worse? Would years of orgasmic bliss with #2 ever truly make up for the fact he is short? How long do think you can be Barbie to #2's Ken, and would being Barbie be worse than having a vibrator for a best friend? These are fine points of a sexual calculus, that I fear we here in AskMe are in no position to intelligently suggest. Good luck with all that.

As a final point to all this, I wonder what your Mom would say about your questions. Girls used to put great stock in what their Mom thought about a guy as a husband for a girl, with good reason. Girls used to even sound out the opinions of their intended's Mother, believe it or not, for insight into what he'd come to expect of women through the sensibilities of the woman who'd raised him. After 10 years, you've had ample time to sound these sources out about #1, if you can. And you probably have a pretty good idea of their views concerning #2, if he's been a long term friend, as well. But maybe not, it being the disconnected 21st century now, in which we know so little about so many of those we supposedly know. So I wonder about all that, but like you say, metaphorically, you've boiled the question down, and we're left with only what you consider its essential features.

You can't flip forever, hot little pancake. No griddle stays greased indefinitely. You choose, or choices get made for you, and even though you haven't acknowledged that in your posts, you know it. #1 isn't going to watch you cuddle with #2 indefinitely, and #2 being the traditional guy you make him out to be, is going to want to set up housekeeping for real, sooner rather than later. The much vaunted #3 isn't really so much a choice, as it is postponing choice at all, as you clearly understand. So you do what women have been doing since way before old men begin debating eternal questions: You cross your fingers, and take your choice, and hold your breath and hope (maybe in a white dress).

Good luck, indeed.
posted by paulsc at 11:30 PM on July 23, 2006 [7 favorites]

Paulsc: Wow. And I mean that in the most impressed sense. That was incredible.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 5:46 AM on July 24, 2006

Go for happy. Great is highly overrated.

You'll make lots of compromises in life, but turning away from happiness will only bring pain to you and everyone around you. Frankly, accepting less out of a career or personal achievement, but gaining happiness, family, and friends, sounds like a good deal to me.

But if you can sit back and debate this intellectually, you don't know and aren't ready. Step back and let your heart tell you which one you can't live without.
posted by cptnrandy at 8:35 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

I signed up to MetaFilter just to answer this question - I've been in almost this same situation myself, it was one of the more difficult periods of my life and if someone else can benefit from what I experienced then so much the better. Skip to the end for the real advice, stay here for a brief setting of the scene.

I was, for several years, dating a guy I got on extremely well with on an intellectual level. We spoke on the phone for hours every day but the physical side of the relationship was never what I'd hoped it would be. Eventually because of the physical incompatibility we agreed to have a break, and in the time we spent apart we both met other people. My guy #2 was pretty cool, physically it was amazing and he was good fun although we didn't really have the mental connection. After a couple of weeks of torture I decided that, being young, I'd rather experience the physical compatibility than spend the rest of my life wondering what it was like, so I chose guy #2. Guy #1 subsequently met someone else, which affected me a lot more than I expected. We had been together for several years and I admit I was a little jealous, but I'd made my bed, so to speak.

Things with guy #2 fizzled out after a few months. We just didn't have that mental click, and I started to think I'd made the wrong choice but reasoned that at least I'd learned that mental compatibility is more important to me and I wouldn't make that mistake again. However shortly after I became single, guy #1 broke up with his new girlfriend and after a few tentative meetings as friends we got back together. The physical problems were now non-existent, possibly due to the time we'd spent apart (nearly a year) so for a while I felt like I had it all; but after a few months I realized that while the physical issues were easy to hone in on, there was actually a general feeling of things not being quite right, of the relationship lacking passion in other areas.

Unsurprisingly, I decided to end things with guy #1. It was really hard, after the elation of thinking maybe things would work out, and it took a huge amount of courage and left me with a genuine belief that I would be alone for some time, but that I couldn't spend the rest of my life feeling something was missing.

Completely out of the blue, less than a month after the breakup, I met someone else. This guy totally blew me away. In one person I had found total physical and mental compatibility, right when I least expected it. He has it all, and then some, and while it took us a long time to get serious because I thought it was a rebound, meeting him made everything I'd been through before worthwhile. It totally cemented the belief in my mind that if you're trying to choose between two people, neither of them are quite enough for you, no matter what they have to offer. You want traits from both of them, and although you think you can settle for one or the other, you might be missing out on a partner who not only surpasses both of them but has qualities you never even imagined you might find. You can't make a black-and-white choice between the pros and cons of two people, but just consider that maybe you're unsure because neither of them are quite right for you.
posted by Sianion at 9:06 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: paulsc: I'm glad you came back and I'm glad you kept posting. I'm also glad that you got frustrated enough to call me disingenuous and proceeded to write an answer that topped your previous solid advice and took my breath away. I think you've understood my #1 quite well and you grasp onto some of the finer points of my choice. It's my sense that one of the things that my #1 discovered when he gazed into his abyss is that he needed me after all. And I think this is really freaking him out and causing a lot of strange behaviors that are spooking me.

But I have loved him for nearly 10 years now and I think that's worth something. After all, that means he's withstood 10 years of my analysis.

To everyone: I think my solution is in here somewhere.

In the end since I don't see #2 as a long term choice, it seems that choosing him would really just lead to #3 anyhow.

I want to acknowledge all of you who reminder me that it's not fair play to toy with sweet #2. You are totally correct and that's another reason I want to come to some sort of decision.

I need to discern if my #1 can provide me with something to replace what was lost in our breakup. If that is possible then we have a chance. This is part of the reason that I have become more concerned about our infrequent sex. It seems like the simplest, most basic of human solutions to use sex to repair that bond. But it looks like we can't have it that easy.

So I guess that's it. It's got to be #1 for now and we see if we can make things work. I really want things to work. If not then #3 etc. I hope this answer doesn't frustrate those of you who were pretty much disregarding him as a choice due to various descriptives. If things don't work out with him my #3 may be out there but I won't be able to get clear of this mess with #1 cleanly unless I do a bit of sorting out first. And it looks like I've got a lot to understand about myself and if I just cut and run I may never face up to it all and as a result if perfect #3 comes along I won't be equipped to make that choice work either. I hope that makes sense.

Ok, now I'm going to mark the answers that were most helpful to me. This was a long hard process for me and I can't tell you enough how helpful a big shot of fresh perspectives has been to me. I feel like a pendulum, swingng around but always coming back to the center. So it must be the center that I need to rest in for now.

In some cases I didn't totally agree with what was said in some of my "best" answers but the ideas were new and interesting and gave me pause.

I am really speechless at all of the wonderful honesty and earnestness that you are all throwing into my question. I want to bake you all cookies and listen to your life's stories while you dunk them in milk and eat them. Thank you all.
posted by hot little pancake at 8:20 PM on July 25, 2006

Good luck HLP! It must be a relief to have made the decision. Plus this way, you will not always wonder if it *might* have worked out with #1 if only you gave him another shot.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:09 PM on July 25, 2006

See ya 'round, pancake. Good luck with it all, and don't take any wooden nickels.
posted by paulsc at 2:35 AM on July 26, 2006

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