To be or not to be
September 7, 2006 11:50 PM   Subscribe

So I've been/was dating this 'older' man and I think he's copping out. Do I make one last effort? (long explanation inside)

I'm a 24 yr old female. He's 37. We knew each other very casually for about a month before we started dating. He's actually my neighbor (4 houses up). By dating, I mean we hung out and slept together within a week of hanging out with each other independently from others.
From the beginning, we were very honest with each other about what we wanted which is largely influenced by our stages in life. He's ready to settle down and get married. While that's not exactly what I'm looking for at this time, I'm not against the idea. He's a well-established lawyer and I'm getting ready to apply to grad school (which might end up being in the town where we already live).
Here's the rub-- while we attempted to keep it pretty casual and non-committal, we have been hanging out pretty frequently (3-4 times a week, with me staying over) for the past 2 1/2 months. We have a great time together-- things were very comfortable from the very beginning, sex is great. We have both been more than honest with each other about everything (past experiences, future plans, blah blah blah). It got to the point where last week it was discussed that we should essentially 'quit while we're ahead' before anyone gets seriously attached since it's unlikely that this won't end up being long-term (ie. headed towards marriage). I explained that I would like to let shit run it's course instead of aborting prematurely, and he sort of let that absorb before deciding that tonight we should pretty much end it. Thing is, he has told me that he feels his clock is ticking and should not spend time in a relationship that is not absolutely destined to be the end-all-be-all. But basically he wants to stop before he really really starts to really care about me to prevent possible future drama.
While I completely understand his motives, and respect them, and left things amicably, I wonder if I should make one last gesture to see if he wants to try before giving up (I didn't put up much of a fight because I knew this was coming even though we have both expressed some feelings for each other). Is he just copping out with this 'quit while we're ahead' thing? I'm pretty sure that we feel similarly toward each other but the age/life-stage thing is an obstacle. I would like to think that if I made one last gesture there would be a chance to continue things for a little while. Is it worth it? I do really care for him and I haven't been interested in anyone else for over a year--
Mainly, should I just let it go or should I make one last (not desperate, but cute and quirky) attempt at making him realize that if we really like each other we should at least give it a little more time?
Anyone with similar experience(s) want to chime in (either from the younger or older perspective)?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He really wants to settle down and you really don't. He feels time is running out and it's not for you. He wants to end your relationship before he falls in love and gives up a good chance at finding someone to marry in the near future and have children with. And you think it would be a good idea if you kept frolicking.

I can see that you understand what he's saying, because you've conveyed it so well, but it's almost like you don't believe it. Let him go. It's the only right thing to do. Unless of course you're willing to consider children and marriage. Are you?
posted by b33j at 12:02 AM on September 8, 2006

You laid it out pretty well. Did you read what you wrote? The logic is pretty clear. You want completely different things. Let him go, but stay in touch.
posted by SpecialK at 12:12 AM on September 8, 2006

Like I said, I'm not against the idea...
posted by greta simone at 12:14 AM on September 8, 2006

Yep, and we're trying to figure out why you were asking the question in the first place ... because if you aren't agaist the idea...
posted by SpecialK at 12:21 AM on September 8, 2006

Like I said, I'm not against the idea...

But are you prepared to give up your future plans for some new ones (marriage, children) with absolutely no regret? If so, go for it. Love him, make babies with him, be his wife.

If not, let him go, because otherwise you might find yourself in ten years time with a couple of kids, resenting the hell out of him and frustrated at yourself for not pursuing your career and education.
posted by essexjan at 12:26 AM on September 8, 2006

Special K-- The question was mainly should I make a last attempt, given that I do think there is the slightest possibility, even though it is indeed slight or just let it go because of the overwhelming lack of evidence that it won't work out-- is a little bit to go on enough?
posted by greta simone at 12:35 AM on September 8, 2006

"Not against the idea" is miles and miles from "ready to dig in, make permanent life changes, and start building a joint future." It sounds like the latter is what he's looking for.

My advice to you is to accept his decision, but to stay friendly. If you do end up staying in town to go to grad school, maybe at some point in the future, the two of you will find that you're on the same page about this stuff, and be able to make another go of it. IMO, Attempting to restart things now may result in a confrontation that could make it hard to be pals later.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:45 AM on September 8, 2006

For somebody in their late thirties who's looking for the full on marriage experience, "I'm not against the idea" isn't good enough. I'm thinking he's looking to get married and start immediately popping out kids, which doesn't really sound like it's what you've got in mind if you're planning on applying to grad school, which might or might not mean leaving town.

I agree with palmcorder's advice. Stay friendly, and if you guys DO end up being in the same town, maybe you can give it a go again. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.
posted by antifuse at 1:12 AM on September 8, 2006

Why is everyone assuming that wanting to settle down = wanting to have children? The OP never says anywhere that her older man wants to have children. That might make a big difference in whether their relationship should be long-term or not. Being "not against the idea" of getting married right now is a helluva lot different from being "not against the idea" of having his babies (now or ever).
posted by Violet Hour at 2:54 AM on September 8, 2006

Well... I know personally, I felt that his explanation of his "clock ticking" was, to me, an expression that he was running out of time to have kids. Maybe I'm wrong?
posted by antifuse at 3:02 AM on September 8, 2006

Best answer: The feeling I'm getting is the same as what other folks have said, and I'm basically your ex's age. Wanting to settle down doesn't just mean being monogamous and long-term, it means making life plans with another person, and making a plan that they are the one you are going to be with moving forward. So think to yourself whether being in the relationship would mean you'd stay in the town you live in for grad school, for example, or whether you'd be ready to move in with him, or whether you've talked about children, etc.

There's a huge difference between thinking "Yeah I'd like kids someday" and "You are the one I want to have children with, as soon as it's practical." I'm aware that he may or may not have been talking about kids specifically. However, speaking as someone his age who recently got out of a relationship with someone a little older than you (and someone who I maybe should have considered having the "quit while we're ahead" talk with a little while ago) where the kid discussion was not a factor, there's still a sense that 24 may be too young to make long-term life plans with. Your life is still changing, at this point in your life, and his is sounding pretty stable.

I don't think talking to him about it would be a bad thing, if you think you're ready to meet him more on his terms. Making some sort of a play in order to continue things for, as you say, "a little while" doesn't sound like it would be appropriate. If you think he's copping out because you think you really might be The One for him, then you can tel him that, but if you just think "hey we have a good thing going, why spoil it?" then it seems like he's given you an answer to that.
posted by jessamyn at 3:49 AM on September 8, 2006

I explained that I would like to let shit run it's course instead of aborting prematurely, and he sort of let that absorb before deciding that tonight we should pretty much end it. Thing is, he has told me that he feels his clock is ticking and should not spend time in a relationship that is not absolutely destined to be the end-all-be-all. But basically he wants to stop before he really really starts to really care about me to prevent possible future drama.

Hey, we get no guarantees in life -- even if you were THE ONE, a million things could happen to make that change. But from what you have said, it sounds like maybe he doesn't see you as the person that he'll be growing old with, for multiple reasons. Copping out? Not necessarily. But maybe letting you down easy.
posted by desuetude at 6:19 AM on September 8, 2006

Do you love him?
posted by LarryC at 7:01 AM on September 8, 2006

...I would like to let shit run it's course...

Shit has run it's course. Period.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:10 AM on September 8, 2006

Kudos to both of you for having a fun fling and then getting out at the appropriate time. The guy doesn't sound misleading at all - I think he knows what he wants, respects your feelings, and recognizes where each of you are in life.

I think it's natural to have second thoughts (he probably is too) but if you read what you wrote I think it's clear that beyond the haze of attraction that you're not going in the same direction that he is (well, maybe the direction is the same - you're just on different time lines.)

I just got out of a similar situation (me the older guy, she the young'n) where we both went into it knowing that it was a temporary gig. Of course we got attached, but things were helped by the fact that she was leaving for school. Ah... if only she were older. Anyway, we're still friends, we'll keep in touch... who knows, maybe in a few years we'll jump back into it. I think you should do the same.
posted by wfrgms at 7:16 AM on September 8, 2006

You're a young woman with probably a lot of future plans that don't easily allow for a husband, house, and kids in the next few years. Unless he's non-traditional, he wants someone to settle down and do these things with. He needs commitment, not waffling.

I think you want to keep him around in case you suddenly start feeling the pressure to enter in this stage of life. You want fun with a boyfriend now and maybe in the nebulous future, when you're ready, you'll have a built-in husband. But he's primed and raring to go the husband/life-partner route now, and it's unfair for you to try too convince him otherwise.
posted by lychee at 7:53 AM on September 8, 2006

You are asking two questions:

1) Is he bullshitting me with the 'quit while ahead' explanation?

2) Are WE doing the right thing?

You will have to rely on your bullshit detector for the first. Get it calibrated! (Any examples of disinginuity on his part?)

Regarding number 2, that seems indeterminate. People are dynamic entities, not static. Whenever you get hitched, you are hitching to the partner as he/she exists today. That will change. The changes will cause stress, usually. The parties to the agreement will change at different rates and in different directions. Depending on the divergence (or just as likely convergence), the stresses may/may not cause relationship failure. Plan on it. Change is the only constant.

I personally don't believe in Mr./Ms. Right. If you can navigate the differences between the two of you going into a long term relationship, you stand a good chance of doing it long term as changes accumulate.

You are much better positioned to succeed if you have the drunkeness of infatuation and lust behind you and are in the smooth waters of rational thought when looking at your relationship. It sounds like you both might be there. Often "The One" gets indentified during infatuation, when both parties are literally drunk with emotion. It is not a fertile time to make decisions for the long term, any more than stumbling drunk is a good time to be driving your car.

It's Nature's way of tricking us into a commitment before we can reason our way out of it. Nature only wants us to have babies, and lots of them. She's not interested in our long term happiness.

I am successfully married to someone 23 years my junior, whose career is just starting, while mind is well underway and closer to ending. It's my second, after a 24 year run with the first, who was my exact age. (She died after a brief illness.) I have had the experience of both May/May and May/September and I think the success is in the attitude, not the arbitrary age difference.

Good luck. You sound like a very deliberative and thoughtful person and it will probably serve you well when you do permantly couple.
posted by FauxScot at 8:00 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Regardless of why he wants out, he wants out. It doesn't sound like age is a part of this at all.

You've ended it amicably. Why screw that up?

When someone wants out of a relationship, please, let them go. He's a grown up adult guy four doors down. If he wants you, he knows where to find you.
posted by Ookseer at 9:04 AM on September 8, 2006

He's not "copping out", he's trying not to get his heart broken. You're clearly not in love with him - in fact, you don't really seem to care how badly he ends up feeling, as long as you get "a little more time" (and a little more great sex). Please, take it from me, men our age can fall deeply for self-centered little sweethearts like you; maybe at your age it's just "drama" but 12 or 15 years down the road we are investing a lot more in our relationships and have a lot more at stake. If you "really care for" the guy, and "respect" his "motives", let him go.
posted by not quite myself today at 9:43 AM on September 8, 2006

Thing is, he has told me that he feels his clock is ticking and should not spend time in a relationship that is not absolutely destined to be the end-all-be-all. But basically he wants to stop before he really really starts to really care about me to prevent possible future drama.

Uhh, no. He doesn't want to spend time in a relationship that isn't destined to be the end-all-be-all. He told you so himself.

He wants to be in a relationship to find someone who he might want to marry and spend the rest of his life with. If the person he's with isn't interested in the same goal, he doesn't want to waste his time. While not very romantic, it is practical.

You have said you don't want to make the decision now; you'd rather "let shit run it's course." From his point of view, there's no difference between saying you're not interested and saying you haven't made up your mind yet--either way, right now you don't have the same goal that he does. And rather than risk a few years in a relationship only to have you wake up one morning and say "I've decided--I don't want to get married," he's cutting it off now.

Maybe you can try to convince yourself that you do want to get married sometime soon. Or you can try to convince him that he's wrong, that there's value in just seeing what happens, and maybe he'll reluctantly agree.

But in the end either you'd be lying to him for the sake of your own happiness or he'd be lying to himself for the sake of your happiness. Either way, your relationship suffers.

I hate to say it, but let this guy go. It sucks, but that's how things work out sometimes.
posted by turaho at 9:49 AM on September 8, 2006

My first wife was 14 years younger than me. We had a lot going for us, but in the end it didn't work out, and I suspect it had to do with her going through the sorts of life and attitude changes people go through in their 20s; what had worked for her before no longer did. This is likely to happen to you as well. Obviously it could turn out fine (as it has for FauxScot), but I'd say the odds are against it. Let him go and enjoy the memories.
posted by languagehat at 9:57 AM on September 8, 2006

Thing is, he has told me that he feels his clock is ticking and should not spend time in a relationship that is not absolutely destined to be the end-all-be-all.

there's two ways that could be interpreted ... 1) he doesn't see himself as being married to you ... 2) he does and is pressuring you into a commitment

in the case of 1, i think you should just let him go, there's really nothing you can do

in the case of 2, if you don't see it happening, you should let him go ... if you think it might, then you need to tell him that you need some more time to be sure and make your mind up ... i do not feel that it's unreasonable after a 2 1/2 month relationship to want more time to think about it ... if he does think it's unreasonable, you may want to think twice

i don't think you should be desperate, cute or quirky, you should be honest and caring, whatever you decide
posted by pyramid termite at 9:58 AM on September 8, 2006

I can totally relate to the guy in this one. I was sort of like that before I met my wife, in that I no longer wished to pursue relationships that clearly had an end-point built in. Getting into something casual - even something pretty good - seemed like a waste of time and a serious emotional risk.

I don't think you're going to convince him to just keep going as it is. If he wants to be in a relationship with "the one" or even simply something that could end up going somewhere long term, considering that he already knows you and your views and where you are on some of these issues, it's going to take a lot of convincing for him to really believe you.

So that's the real question - can you go to him and truly say that you're willing to take the relationship wherever it goes, no exceptions? And will you mean it? Can you say so truthfully, with confidence? Can you say that you'll make your decisions not as an individual only but also as a member of a couple?

If you can't do that - if that's not where you are now, personally (and you said it was not), then I would smile and walk away from this. If you do think you can go there - then by all means let him know and do your best to convince him.
posted by mikel at 10:00 AM on September 8, 2006

Also, on preview, what Pyramid Termite said.

He may never be convinced that the relationship isn't automatically deformed, that you only want to go all the way with the thing under pressure from him - in which case, he'd take even MORE convincing.
posted by mikel at 10:02 AM on September 8, 2006

Do you love him?

LarryC has said all that needs to be said.
posted by Neiltupper at 10:09 AM on September 8, 2006

i'm confused by your post. you say "I explained that I would like to let shit run it's course instead of aborting prematurely". and you say "we should at least give it a little more time". On the surface this suggests you don't see this relationship as a long-term/lifetime event. If that is so, then in all fairness you must let the guy bale out. BUT, reading other lines (e.g. "I do really care for him and I haven't been interested in anyone else for over a year"), it seems like you might be in love with him, and be ready to consider marriage or a marriage-type relationship. If that is so, then fess up to your own feelings, quit worrying about the age difference, that means not so much if you have a real rappport and the generosity and maturity to nourish it, tell him you want him seriously, have his child, go to grad school at the same time (if he's a lawyer, you can afford and arrange to do both) and build a life together.
posted by londongeezer at 10:09 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

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