Relationship help for the indecisive
November 22, 2006 7:27 AM   Subscribe

To stay with my girlfriend of two years, or break it off as soon as possible?

My girlfriend and I have been together for about two years. However, we've been best friends for at least eight years. We currently live together and go to school together. Over the past year or so, I've felt like we're increasingly becoming better friends, but we're becoming worse lovers/bf-gf. If someone were to spend a day with us he or she would think my girlfriend and I are mere roommates.

I feel like I've lost the spark on my end. Here's the tipping point: over the past year or so, I've been hanging out with a girl I was dating before going out with my current girlfriend. I pretty much blew off the girl I was dating for my girlfriend. Needless to say, about a year ago I started to think "what if...". So I decided to hang out with the girl I was previously dating. We really hit it off - just as we did when we were dating. My only problem is that she's considerably (3 years) younger than I am, and just starting college. While three years might not seem like a lot, I act like I'm 30 - so it feels like a bit of an age gap, which I find to sometimes be a let down due to the lack of intelligent conversation. My girlfriend and I can talk from dusk till dawn, spouting off ideas from great philosophers, politicians, and other historical jokers. Yet, I come to find the mindless time I feel like I'm having with the girl I was previously dating to be exciting and exhilarating! Hanging out with the girl I was dating feels like a breath of fresh air to me. I'm at the point where I feel like I'm emotionally attached to the girl I was dating and absolutely detached from my girlfriend.

I wanted to ask you folks for advice because at this point, I don't know whether I should stick around with my girlfriend, on the terms that this is all some sort of phase, or I should break it off and be with the girl that I was previously dating, who makes me feel like I'm living my early twenties to the fullest (regardless of being able to converse on a "higher" level).

I've been reluctant to make a decision, mainly because I'm living with my girlfriend and she doesn't have any family or close friends in the area, so she has to depend on me for a lot (not to say that I don't depend on her for some things). Even though this is a bad time (to deal with this situation) with the holidays and the fact that we're going on a big vacation very soon - I'm starting to think there is really never a good time.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You don't sound like you're 30, you sound like a pretentious 20 year old.

My usual rule is this: If you have to ask, then yes you should break it off. Especially since you're so young. I can tell from the way you described it you'll have major regrets later.

However, in my completely honest opinion, both your current and your next potential relationship are doomed. The current one because you've got certified wandering eye, and the second because a) you broke up with her once, and b) you think she's a moron. One of you will get tired of it eventually. And that's assuming the ex will want another go at it.

So yeah, break it off.

PS: Does your current girlfriend know you've been spending the last year hanging with your ex?
posted by Ookseer at 7:45 AM on November 22, 2006 [3 favorites]

I, too, wondered what "I act like I'm 30" means -- I suspect the worst.

In all honesty, you sound as young as you are. 30, for me, turned out to be about enjoying things that I wouldn't have back when I thought that conversing on High Levels made me so very Old.

In other words, you are young, you don't want to marry, and you probably have a few breakups more to go through. So: godspeed.
posted by argybarg at 7:50 AM on November 22, 2006

Ookseer is a little harsh, but I think speaks the truth. If your main reason for sticking with your girlfriend is that she doesn't have close friends or family in the area, and depends on you for a lot, then end it. She will be fine and is unlikely to want you to stay with her out of a sense of pity.

I act like I'm 30

When you're 30, look back at your early 20s and see if you still believe that.
posted by amro at 7:53 AM on November 22, 2006

...I act like I'm 30 - so it feels like a bit of an age gap, which I find to sometimes be a let down due to the lack of intelligent conversation. My girlfriend and I can talk from dusk till dawn, spouting off ideas from great philosophers, politicians, and other historical jokers.

In my experience, and YMMV over the years, people who are 30 talk about jobs, commuting, spouses, kids, pets. Perhaps you need to re-examine your self-awareness before you make the type of decisions you are contemplating.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:56 AM on November 22, 2006

I agree with the others that both relationships sound doomed.

Perhaps you need to get out there and play the field for a while? It doesn't sound to me like you're ready to commit, which is what 30 year olds tend to want. Good luck to you!
posted by LunaticFringe at 8:14 AM on November 22, 2006

You don't deserve your girlfriend. Break it off and give her a chance to find someone who won't hang out with his ex behind her back.

That said, I completely agree with what's already said. You don't sound like you're 30, you don't even sound like you're in your mid-20's yet. You sound young and like someone who wants to play the field and get some more life experiences. Is there anything wrong with that? No, not as long as you do so without leading some poor girl along thinking that you are dedicated to her and that your relationship is going somewhere.
posted by tastybrains at 8:15 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

You should probably break it off. No one gets married thinking "hm, I'm not sure about this". Yes, there's no good time. And if you're not getting along, the vacation is going to stink.

Having said that, what exactly do people in their 30's sound like in your mind? The 30-somethings I know talk about minivans, diapers and which teachers at their kids' school are nice and which ones are crazy. Being old(er) has nothing to do with being intellectual - I am living proof of being old and vapid.
posted by GuyZero at 8:23 AM on November 22, 2006

OK, give him some slack on the act-like-he's-30 bit. I don't know what that even means, and neither do any of you.

The problem is that you guys are living together, and in doing that you've made a commitment from which it will be difficult to unilaterally extract yourself. Perhaps she also misses the spark? If you are "best friends" then this should be something you can feel comfortable communicating to each other.

Also, exes are always bad news; there's a reason you guys broke up in the first place.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:25 AM on November 22, 2006

If you want to break up with your girlfriend, do it on the merits or difficulties of your own relationship, not because you wonder if you found something better.

If you do break it off with your girlfriend, do the other girl a favor and don't jump into a relationship with her. You already dumped her once to see someone else. Don't rope her in only to dump her again because she was your rebound.
posted by christinetheslp at 8:28 AM on November 22, 2006

If you've held onto another girl for a while who you obviously have some (even if they're not enough to create a long-lasting relationship with) romantic feelings for, it's generally because your relationship is lacking something and she fills that void. Maybe that breath of fresh air is the spark that's lost. Maybe it's something else.

Regardless, if you're young and the spark's already gone, it's time to get out. Hopefully you can keep the friendship that seems wonderful. Good luck.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:29 AM on November 22, 2006

stick with current girlfriend.

commit like you mean it.

acknowledge that any relationship worth having is both work, and worth working for.

get your ass in gear and improve both your sex lives.
posted by ewkpates at 8:32 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have totally been where you are and I can say that what you have with your present gf may not seem great, but to me it does. Think about it like this:

Fast FWD 2 years into the future. You are with girl B, but that breath of fresh air is no longer so fresh. She is quite possibly doing things that you once thought were charming, but now just annoy you to death. Her simpler way used to complement you, now it just frustrates you. Then you go to friend's birthday party, and there is girl A looking a lot less homely and rather exotic now. Seated next to her is that dude who epitomizes everything you can't or won't be. Then you think about how much you loved the long talks about she used to always be able to pay her half of the bills. How life was so tranquil with her.

Then you look at girl A, who is acting like a dumbass and embarrassing you again. You roll your eyes and take a few more shots and long for the mating of the mind you no longer have.

Now this is bleak, I know. But one acid test I have always presented myself was the worst case scenario test. You have to be OK with the idea of your girl with somebody else and you with nobody. Picture it, think about it, and if you still feel that it is a good idea then it might just be. You need that because, there will come a time when you might have a small bit of regret, and when you do, remind yourself of why you did what you did.
posted by jeff_w_welch at 8:34 AM on November 22, 2006 [8 favorites]

Also, exes are always bad news; there's a reason you guys broke up in the first place.

These are wise words worth repeating. Maybe not always, but definitely usually.
posted by milarepa at 8:34 AM on November 22, 2006

To stay with my girlfriend of two years, or break it off as soon as possible?

No one here can answer that. You need to have this talk with your girlfriend and tell her everything you just told us. Then you guys can go from there.

If you DO decide to breakup though, be single for a few months before hooking up with another girlfriend, especally if you already have one picked out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:42 AM on November 22, 2006

Break up. You didn't give us any good reasons to stay together. If you were meant to be together, perhaps you'll later realize it, and it may work out down the line. But if you don't break up now, I imagine you'll always feel sort of blah about her, and nothing good will come of that. You're young, you're not married.

I agree with those that say a relationship with the younger girl won't work out, but maybe some day you'll find a girl that combines the excitement of the young girl with the compatibility of the current gf. Clearly something about the mental connection you share with your current gf is important to you - if you're that kind of guy, this less intelligent girl will probably bore you eventually. Your feelings for the younger girl are probably mostly just a symptom of the lack of excitement in your current relationship.

Now, I do have to say that you sound like you have a pretty great thing with the current gf, except for the lack of spark. Did you once have a spark? If not, why did you ever become a couple? If so, do you think it's worth trying to bring that spark back to life? There are ways to do that. If your hearts are in it, your vacation could help. Doing exciting things together, changing your routine, working on your intimate life, etc. can all be ways to revive a relationship that's temporarily in the doldrums. If you think that's worth exploring, talk to her about your concerns and see if she's game to try to bring this thing back to life.
posted by Amizu at 8:54 AM on November 22, 2006

It sounds like you totally have a case of "the grass is always greener". You already admit that this new (old) girl doesn't have a lot to draw your attention compared to your current gf, but that you find meaningless time spent with her to be "exciting and exhilirating". It's all hormones, man. If you break it off with what sounds like a much deeper and better woman in order to chase a little semi-familiar tail, you'll really regret it later.

Part of being in an adult relationship (as anyone who acts like they are 30 should know) is becoming the custodian of your connection with that person. When sex drive diminishes, you ramp up the effort. When time together stales, you find new adventures together and make new friends together. Or sometimes you take a vacation alone so that you can have a chance to miss that person and remember what's so great about spending boring time together. This is how a relationship constantly regenerates and constantly improves.

In a decidedly non-30 year old metaphor, it's like a role-playing video game: You choose a character to start the game with. When it gets hard or boring after the first few levels, there is always the temptation to scrap that character and build a better one. Think of how much faster you'll zip through the challenges and how much more fun it will be! But if you keep doing this and start over again and again, you just retread the same levels over and over again and you never get to see the amazing stuff or use the cooler abilities that come later in the game. Some people live their whole lives playing out the same relationships over and over, never giving any of them the chance to reach that higher level.

Maybe this isn't your time to do this, and maybe you should detach and play around more. But if you do, be honest about your connection to the new (old) girl and don't trick yourself into thinking that you actually want to be with her the same way you're with you're current.

And ALSO: when your deep, intellectual current gf finds out that you're dumping her for a younger, less sophisticated, man-stealing piece of meat, she's going to hate you both. You will think she's overreacting, but trust us, she won't be.
posted by hermitosis at 9:07 AM on November 22, 2006 [8 favorites]

I would suggest that, despite your level of maturity, you are too young to be that worried about any of this, and should play the field quite a bit more before deciding that any person is right for you.

You say that the former girlfriend/current crush just started college - so she's roughly 18 years old. You are 3 years older than her, so that makes you about 21. You've been dating your current live-in for about 2 years, so basically you two moved in together when you were 19... and you've been friends for 8 years, so since you were 13 years old?

I bet when the other people here poke fun at your comment about acting like you're 30, it hurts a little. You might consider that people in their 30s would be a little more experienced in how to settle the dilemma of, "Do I go with the new and shiny, yet vapid, girl? Or do I stay with the smart, not so new, girl?"

For what it's worth, I think the time to chase shiny things is when you are in your 20s. After that, you'll appreciate a meeting of the mind and soul (which you may not have with either girl right now).
posted by Houstonian at 9:11 AM on November 22, 2006

A couple thoughts. I dont think its common to know someone for over a decade and still act like horny teenagers. A good relationship feels like a friendship but with the added bonus of sex. You'll probably feel the same way with the next girl and neither of you are getting any younger.

To me, it sounds like your main problem is that you think you have the pick of two women. The older girl is ironically probabl y the least mature if you guys are still grinding old chestnuts like "What is the ubermensch" at 4am. The young girl sounds more traditional and that's probably whats turning you on. If youre finding that your own 20s pretention is wearing thin but your mate's never will, then you should break up and go with the 19 year old.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:16 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

As others have said, early 20s sounds like the time to date a bunch of different people, not to struggle to keep a long-term committed relationship (which you aren't wild about) alive. You'll have plenty of time to have a real relationship later, believe me.
posted by myeviltwin at 9:21 AM on November 22, 2006

Which one do you think you can grow old with and still enjoy their company? You like to imagine that you are acting like a 30 year old - time to think like one.
posted by Fuka at 9:34 AM on November 22, 2006

I will preface my comment by saying that I don't think you're being fair to your present girlfriend or to the relationship. I think you know that unless you really want to make this work the relationship is over...

OK, here goes: I'm not going to make fun of your 30's comment, largely because it's the type of thing that I probably said when I was in my early 20's (and a shudder when I think about it.) I will say this: like Houstonian said, part of getting older is knowing what's good for you, like whether you should date girl x or girl y. I would say that the best way of working out these things is by making mistakes in the first place. A mistake such as getting back with your ex. The vast majority of the time this is a mistake. Another mistake would be getting heavily involved with a girl because she's hot even though you know full-well that she's psycho. Unless you're unusually sagacious, I think that you have to make mistakes before you really learn from them. The time to make mistakes is in your 20's. Then, when you're in your 30's you can look back from those lofty heights and shudder, just like I am now...
posted by ob at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2006

I'm 21. Until last month, I was the girl in a relationship like yours - it was more like being best friends, we lived together, I had no family or close friends for two hours flight. In the end we only broke up because I went overseas and being apart really made it evident that we were no longer really 'there' for each other. This also made it easier to ignore the 'stuck on my own in the strange city' aspect, as that won't come up til I arrive home next year. However, I would probably list 'breaking up' as one of the best things to happen during my exchange, miserable though it was. If I hadn't gone away, we may not have broken up yet, and we definitely needed to.

So, I say that it will be difficult, but you should break up with her now. You're right that there is no good time. If you're lucky, you'll stay friends like I have (so far), and still have a nice vacation. If not, tough - it's better than being all "awesome trip, hey? So, I've been planning to dump you since just before we left." Maybe one of you could pull out of the trip and have a friend of the other go.
posted by jacalata at 9:41 AM on November 22, 2006

Bail and go with the ex.

That's what you want to do anyways, and there's really no downside. Either it works and you are blissfully happy, or it doesn't and you gain some experience about how to approach these things in the future.

One thing you don't want to do is hang around with one foot out of your relationship with your current girlfriend. That's not fair to either of you.
posted by tkolar at 9:45 AM on November 22, 2006

What ookseer said. Or if you don't agree with that, what ewkpates said.
posted by londongeezer at 9:46 AM on November 22, 2006

No one gets married thinking "hm, I'm not sure about this".

Actually, some people do get married while thinking this. I had this basic feeling as I walked down the aisle at my own wedding. Needless to say, I'm divorced (amicably so -- my ex-husband and I were simply meant to be friends, not spouses).
posted by scody at 10:46 AM on November 22, 2006

Jeff_W knows what time it is.
posted by dobie at 10:47 AM on November 22, 2006

Break up. Some day, though, you will realize that the one with whom you "I can talk from dusk till dawn, spouting off ideas from great philosophers, politicians, and other historical jokers" is the one you should stay with. But that's not now, and that's ok.

What you owe your current girlfriend now is honesty. Not complete honesty (which is cruel), but basic honesty: tell your current girlfriend that you're leaving her for someone else, rather than hiding behind half-truths about sparks and whatnot. The whole "spark" thing makes it sound like there's something wrong with your girlfriend, when the truth is you're being drawn towards the new girl rather than being pushed away by your current girlfriend.
posted by footnote at 11:46 AM on November 22, 2006

Over the past year or so, I've felt like we're increasingly becoming better friends, but ... I feel like I've lost the spark on my end.

I don't have a strong opinion about whether or not you should stay, especially given your age. You're young. Maybe you should be dating a bunch of people.

But if you're interested in a long-term relationship, you need to unscrew your head, shake out some silly (romantic) ideas, and then screw your head back on and face the world as it really is.

The BEST thing that can happen to a person is for him to wind up in a relationship with his best friend. If you really were thinking like a 30-year-old, you'd be just starting to think about growing old and how important it is to grow old with a soulmate.

Sparks go. Maybe a few people are lucky enough to stay together for 50 years and always feel that spark of new love and attraction, but they are few and far between. It's very exciting to start a new relationship, and a lot of the spark comes from that excitement. You can't feel that after a long period, because the relationship is no longer new. But there are many ways to get it back: you do it by adding new spice to the old relationship. And there's a whole self-help industry out there eager to show you how to do that.

As unromantic as it sounds, you have to work at it. You have to work to rekindle the spark (but the work is work it, because the payoff is so great). But the point it you CAN rekindle it. It's possible to get the spark back -- what's NOT possible is forging a deep, meaningful friendship in a short-term relationship.

Personally, I would never leave a relationship that needed spark fixing, because that's fixable. I would leave a relationship because the friendship was gone.

Again, I'm NOT saying "stay with your girlfriend." You have to decide whether or not to do that. I'm saying you might want to spend some time sorting out your priorities. If and when one of them is staying in a long-term relationship, get over the expectation of a continual spark and work at it.
posted by grumblebee at 11:48 AM on November 22, 2006 [4 favorites]

jeff_w_welch nailed it.
posted by NationalKato at 11:49 AM on November 22, 2006

I just realized that I'd made an assumption - I assumed that you were trying to decide which girl might be the best for the long term (and I suggested that you are too young to worry about that yet). But maybe you want to know which is the best for right now?

Everyone has a little checklist of what they want in a long-term partner, and so only you know what's important to you. If, however, you want a someone who is a best friend, who loves you pretty much unconditionally, whom you can trust, and who is an intellectual and sexual match with you... then you might want to put both women to the test.

Have you been honest with both women about what's going on? Does the former girlfriend knows that you are in a relationship? Does she know that you crave more intellectual stimulation? Have you tried to change that element in the relationship, perhaps exposing the both of you to situations where you can really connect intellectually? Everyone is smart about something - have you put yourself out of your comfort zone so that she can be the smart one during an activity?

Does the current girlfriend knows you've been spending time with the other woman? Does she know that you feel the spark is gone? Have you tried to bring back the spark, and put in the time and effort to make the relationship more romantic? Most women like romantic and sexual relationships, so she probably has noticed that this is not up to par - have you asked her what you can do to be a better sexual partner, and then followed up on those recommendations?

Have you tried talking with either/both of them about your current questioning? Do you trust them with the truth, so that you can discuss it with them, and also so that they can make the right choices for themselves?

If those ideas make you cringe, in my opinion neither one is the right woman for the long term (mostly because you are not ready for a long-term pick - and there is nothing wrong with that). So then, pick for the short term - whichever one is most satisfying to you at the moment.

And, be aware that if you keep either/both of them in the dark about all of this, and they later find out, they will probably treat you in a similar manner - no discussion, just a decision.
posted by Houstonian at 12:20 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

you might want to put both women to the test.

aka, the mindfuck. please don't do this. just fish or cut bait.
posted by footnote at 2:52 PM on November 22, 2006

Make the decision whether or not to stay with your current girlfriend independently of the decision to hook up with the new one. You're conflating two different issues otherwise.
posted by number9dream at 3:31 PM on November 22, 2006

You'll give her up for the other girl and then you'll never be able to be good friends with your current girlfriend. She'll hate you. You'll get tired of the new girlfriend and hate yourself.

You should think more about what you really want in a woman/companion. Otherwise, you'll make such a big mess out of your life.

Then again, you're pretty young to be living full time with a girl. And she's pretty young to be missing out on other men.

How about, once your lease is over, you go and move in with some of your guy friends? You are too young to be living with her and she's too young to already have a semi-marriage going on.
posted by onepapertiger at 3:56 PM on November 22, 2006

It sounds as though you're enjoying the thrill of the other girl right now, but if you end up with her in a relationship down the road, I suspect that you may be feeling the same way again in 2 years. Be honest with yourself. Let things get quiet and really think things through. What are you measuring the standard of your relationship against? Are you expecting your girlfriend to be absolutely everything to you and fulfill *all* your needs? It's great if you can find someone who can, but perhaps you also need to acknowledge that it's okay to have friends too to have that mindless fun with too, but it doesn't necessarily mean you should be in a relationship with them. Maybe sit down and talk it through with your girlfriend-- it seems as though it's been going for a while, but perhaps better sooner than later?
posted by perpetualstroll at 9:50 PM on November 22, 2006

I don't know if you should or shouldn't break up with your girlfriend, but for the love of God don't hook up with your ex. Go out and meet someone new.

Also, all relationships drop off dramatically in intensity around the two year mark.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:59 AM on November 23, 2006

Ditch 'em both. There's a lot of fish in the sea. BrotherCaine has it. Don't look back.
posted by spitbull at 5:41 AM on November 25, 2006

But make sure you don't end up an old fisherman with a leaky boat and no fish.
posted by footnote at 12:50 PM on November 25, 2006

We all wind up in leaky boats and swimming with the fishes Lucky for me they swim in schools.
posted by spitbull at 12:10 PM on November 30, 2006

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