Stay or play?
August 31, 2007 7:18 PM   Subscribe

Should I break up with my boyfriend? Or 'play the field'?

I'm 21 (girl) and I've been seeing one guy exclusively for nearly 3 years... Yes, I love him, he is completely adorable and good to me, an exceedinlgy kind person. We don't live together nor have plans to in the near future.

2 weeks ago I met someone else at a party, when I was alone. The new guy was amazing to talk to, we completely clicked, which suprised me bvecause I'm usually rather cool when I first meet people, even cold (nope, I was not drunk either). He did proposition me, but I refused even though I was exceedingly attracted to him. Thanks to the modern wonders of facebook/social network and an good mutual friend of both of ours, he emailed me. I replied and now we've been having a dialogue/phone conversations since then and he wants to meet up. Meeting of minds at least, possibly bodies. Sigh. I'd love to but... the boyfriend.

It did get me thinking though. I've had one other relationship (teenage-drama-rama) before the boyfriend, which kind of does bother me ('lack of experience')... I adore him but in 2 years or so he's moving overseas after his studies finish. I intend to go offshore relatively soon as well but it will be different continents. I would love to marry him or something like that if I was 10 years older... but for now, not an option. So I guess what I'm asking here is... do you think I should A) go off and play the field, starting with the new guy B) stick with and appreciate boyfriend until inevitable break-up/attempt friendship with new guy, C) have an affair (haha just kidding... I wouldn't be able to do that) or D) continue OMG-wtf-cry-and-overthink-turmoil (current status)

So far no one knows about each other. I have extensively searched the archives... so I appreciate your thoughts! Special askmefi email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I have no advice on how you should proceed. However, be aware that you are already cheating on your boyfriend a little bit. You've engaged in friendship someone who you are interested in, and is likewise attracted to you. You communicate with this person clandestinely and the person to whom you've committed is oblivious to all of it. You don't have to jump in the sack to make it an affair, you know.
posted by dendrite at 7:31 PM on August 31, 2007 [7 favorites]

If not now, when? It sounds like a good time in your life for some fun and adventure!
posted by MiffyCLB at 7:35 PM on August 31, 2007

You're not ready to settle down yet, so it does neither you nor your boyfriend any good to go through the motions. Be honest, make a clean break of it, leave at once, then go play with the new guy with a clean conscience.

Very few people partner up for life at 21, and you're already envisioning eventually breaking up with him anyway. If you're going to do it, just do it already. Dragging things on makes it worse for all three parties here.
posted by DaShiv at 7:35 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Break up, and go hook up with the new guy.
posted by jacalata at 7:36 PM on August 31, 2007

At 21, perhaps you SHOULD be playing the field, and maybe a good reason to break up with your boyfriend IS because you and he are moving to different places. But breaking up with a "loving," "adorable," "exceedingly kind" boyfriend because you got attracted to another guy at a party? That seems nuts to me.

When you're 31, 41, 51 and 61, you'll get turned on by guys that are not your partner. What will you do?

To be honest, I don't think you'll be committing a crime if you dump your boyfriend and have a fling. That's fairly normal behavior for someone your age. But make sure that -- at some point -- you start working on your relationship skills. That is, if you ever want a stable, long-term relationship.

You won't suddenly gain these skills when you're 30. There will always be temptations. As countless other AskMe posts point out, you have to WORK at relationships. To me, the work is worth it.

PS. I'm not very "experienced." Who cares? I'm happy. I think if you've only been in one or two relationships, and they're abusive or something, that's a problem. You don't have the experience to know that relationships don't have to be that way. But if I was with someone so "adorable," I wouldn't throw it away because I wanted more "experience."
posted by grumblebee at 7:38 PM on August 31, 2007 [9 favorites]

At 21... breaking up with a "loving," "adorable," "exceedingly kind" boyfriend because you got attracted to another guy at a party? That seems nuts to me.

If so: regret is a lesson best learned early.
posted by DaShiv at 7:41 PM on August 31, 2007 [8 favorites]

Give it time. Occasionally I meet some really great guy and obsess over him, but I give it 2 weeks (without purposefully contacting the party I'm obsessing over, this is important) and it usually disappears. We are young and our hormones like to torture us.

If it doesn't go away after that time then maybe you are on to something. But tell this new guy that you need some time to think about things and then make a decision after two weeks or so.
posted by melissam at 8:07 PM on August 31, 2007

You already knew it was going to happen at some point, but now you've started moving in that direction emotionally. Break up now and save both parties a lot of pain and drama.

I would love to marry him or something like that if I was 10 years older

It's not the right time in your life, so he is not the right guy for you. It'll happen when you're ready for it. For now, be young and free, and have fun.

The part above that I quoted really resonated with me, so I will email more with my specific situation!
posted by lhall at 8:13 PM on August 31, 2007

It sounds to me like what appeals to you about your current boyfriend is his stability and general decency. While those are terrific qualities, they don't tend to inspire passion. At least not in the absence of anything...well...more interesting. More exciting, even. Your current relationship sounds like a case of settling -- halfassed settling at that, since you don't seem hugely attached to him. If you don't see a future with him, why not move on to someone you've got sparks with instead? I think you're more afraid of the unsettling effects of change than you are of actually losing your boyfriend, which -- really -- is a pretty strong indicator that you're in the wrong relationship. I say break it off and work from there.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:21 PM on August 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

We are young and our hormones like to torture us.

Um... just thought I should throw this in, in case it helps: It doesn't stop when you are no longer "young."

(old guy)
posted by The Deej at 8:28 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

"We are young and our hormones like to torture us."

Um... just thought I should throw this in, in case it helps: It doesn't stop when you are no longer "young."

Oh great, I was looking forward to being old and now it's ruined.

Just kidding.

I do assume though that with experience it becomes less and less disruptive.
posted by melissam at 8:38 PM on August 31, 2007

Do not do option D. I know the situation seems sort of overwhelming and romantic and lends itself to that (two men! whatever shall I do?!), but in reality, it eats you up inside and makes your friends want to run whenever they see you on the caller ID. Trust me. It's also very drama-rama, and regression is no fun.

I sort of agree with some of what dendrite said, there is some overall sketchiness that you are engaging in here - I'd imagine you wouldn't want your boyfriend to find out. To add to that, new guy doesn't even know about the boyfriend, which seems extra sneaky to me.

Also sounds like you're sort of lukewarm over your boyfriend and making excuses as to why you should consider breaking up with him (going two years! that's pretty far off from now).

Anyway, my advice, posted elsewhere on AskMe previously but very applicable to your situation is:

Separate the two issues. It's not "Should I break up with my boyfriend to go for this other guy?" It's "Should I break up with my boyfriend?" followed by "Should I go for this (or another) guy?"

Forget about the other guy for a minute. If you are otherwise happy in your relationship except for the jolt that this crush has given you, then I would stay. If this jolt has awakened you to the fact that you are actually not happy, then leave.
posted by ml98tu at 8:41 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dump. And actually you should break up with him ASAP, just tell him that you're bored, etc. If you fall for the other guy and then dump him for him, it will be worse for your boyfriend IMO.

"It's not you it's me" is better then "It's not you, it's another guy"
posted by delmoi at 8:44 PM on August 31, 2007

You can't be friends with new guy, girlfriend to old. One or the other.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

anon: "do you think I should A) go off and play the field, starting with the new guy B) stick with and appreciate boyfriend until inevitable break-up/attempt friendship with new guy..."

Good fucking god. If it's really that way, dump the poor guy already. It'll be much better for him. Trust me, he'll be a hell of a lot happier later on knowing that he's escaped being just a reliable standby until the real thing comes along.

Methinks you don't respect him very much. Which is a very good reason for you to not date him. In fact, it would probably help him deal with it a bit better if you tell him you don't respect him as you're breaking up with him.

Life isn't about being comfortable. It's about being happy.
posted by koeselitz at 8:49 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

And, if you really care about somebody and want to be with them for a long time, then of course you're going to meet other people and have chemistry, and of course it's going to be something that you feel torn about and have to either keep renewing the old relationship or choose to end it. Either deal with it or don't, but if there's really nothing left for you with 'old guy,' let him go find something better.
posted by koeselitz at 8:51 PM on August 31, 2007

First, congrats on not diving in predictably and crapping all over your current relationship. Good for you for considering your current bf along with yourself. That is cool.

I would usually suggest you talk to the current bf, tell him that you think perhaps that some space and new faces would be a good thing for you two. Especially before he splits for the land far away. It might let you know how realistic a future is for yous twos.

However, looking back at the past 13 years (i'm 34 now), I would say don't be so ready to dump a good thing in hopes that you will find something better.

Sometimes you just end up alone.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:05 PM on August 31, 2007 [6 favorites]

You're 21. For the love of god go, do what your wild young heart is already telling you to do.
posted by Roman Graves at 9:59 PM on August 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

YoBananaBoy just made me sad.

I want to tell you to go off with this new guy.... but YBB's haunting me. It is possible you never find another one.

Sad but true.
posted by rokusan at 10:03 PM on August 31, 2007

I think it depends entirely on how much you think your current boyfriend is your "soulmate" / someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.

I met my husband at a party when I was 19 years old, and he was 23. We immediately clicked and started dating. 3 months later we got engaged, and 4 months after that we got married. I just knew he was "the one" (for want of a better term) - the important thing I need to point out here is that I had never dated anyone before him - he was my first and last boyfriend and I married him.

Skip forward - we've now been happily married for nearly 10 years. I love him more now than the day we were married and he is a wonderful husband. Had I given him up back then to play the field I know I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.

All that to say - if you think your boyfriend is "the one" for you then think long and hard before giving him up, there is nothing more horrible than regret. But if you can't see yourself with this man for the rest of your life then you would be selling yourself short to try. It's all going to come down to the soulmate factor.

How to tell if he is your soulmate? That's a big question but for my part I could tell he was because my husband did, and still does...

- Utterly adores me
- Spoils me rotten :)
- Looks after me
- Treats me like a princess
- Gives up his own plans if I need him, eg: once I had a horrible 3-day interstate work trip to go on and he gave up 3 days of his holiday to come with me and make it bearable even though he had to sit in a boring hotel room most of the time.
- Constantly tells me he loves me

The list goes on but you get the idea... Anyway I hope that helps :)
posted by katala at 10:55 PM on August 31, 2007

I wonder if this question would have gotten a different set of answers had it not been posted at 10pm on a Friday night. (I realize the timing of anonymous posts is not up to the poster).

The bulk of the answers so far seem to be saying, You're young so act youthfully.

Especially because it's hard to glean from the question how exactly you feel about your current boyfriend (I hear you saying you'd marry him if you were older -- others here seem to read you as feeling tepid and merely loyal), I think the right advice here is ml98tu's: consider the question of whether to break up with your boyfriend separately from the excitement of meeting this new guy at the party.

Whatever you decide, you should switch into a more honest mode as soon as you can. I'm not saying you have to confess these feelings to your boyfriend if you end up deciding not to act on them, but consider that if you start a relationship with this new guy -- and it ends up turning into something serious -- you've more or less given him the ethical ground to act in the future as you do now.
posted by nobody at 11:24 PM on August 31, 2007

You're 21. For the love of god go, do what your wild young heart is already telling you to do.

I've never liked advice along these lines, because I have never felt like being young means having a pass to do whatever I wanted, no matter how stupid. But having lived in college dorms for years, I think I might alone in thinking this way. You should not ask yourself, should I do what I want (want, like a dollar on a string! you could chase want forever!)? Ask yourself, what do I want (love? adventure? commitment?), and act accordingly.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:06 AM on September 1, 2007 [8 favorites]

23skidoo is selling you short. He's congratulating you on engaging a relationship for the purpose of an intimate encounter. That is wrong.

The OP is more than just tempted - she IS sneaking around - she is ACTING on her feelings. Guess what that means - she IS cheating then. Its not murder-level cheating as he says, but it is dishonest, it is not fair to the boyfriend, and it is unethical. Nonetheless, I wouldn't call this a betrayal to your boyfriend but you need to break up with him pronto if you wish to cultivate any kind of relationship with the new guy.
posted by dendrite at 12:55 AM on September 1, 2007

The world is filled with people we're potentially attracted to, but it's NOT filled with people we love, nor is it filled with people who love us.

If your own assessment is that you are too young to commit to your current boyfriend, and/or that this new friend is interesting enough to make your head spin, then you are almost certainly right, and you should break up with or distance yourself from your current BF as soon as possible, if only out of fairness to him.

Go do some living, and look for a more settled relationship when that's what you want. If this decision leads to regret, well, you'll have a better understanding of yourself and the stakes involved the next time around. Of course, if it doesn't, then it was the right decision all along. But the mere fact that this is a question indicates to me that your current relationship is already over.
posted by mosk at 1:51 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

The tone of your post reads like you're bored and itching to go.

So go, gain new experience but keep in mind that some of those new experiences will include hurt and pain, but that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger in the long run, but short term it'll fuck your head up.

When dumping current boyfriend, do him a favor and cut off all contact for six months or so. Do not attempt to remain friends after the breakup, make it clean, so you have time to separate.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:07 AM on September 1, 2007

I think it is entirely natural for someone who is still relatively young and who has limited experience "playing the field" to be curious about what it would be like to date other people. If you were to break up this certainly wouldn't be a unique case of a young couple breaking up after several years because one member decides he or she would like to experience casual dating for awhile.

I appreciate the other advice you've been given about long-term relationships taking hard work, how temptation will always be there regardless of how old you are, etc. However, I do see a pretty major difference between someone like you, who is simply curious after having gotten into a long-term relationship very young, what it might be like to get a little more dating experience under your belt before settling down long term vs. someone a decade or more older who goes through his or her entire life jumping from one relationship to another whenever something more interesting comes along. In other words, don't feel bad because what you're feeling is common and it's not as if feeling restless when you're in your early 20s is going to doom you to never have a happy long-term relationship.

Before you decide to move any further in pursuing this new person, the decent thing to do would be to let your boyfriend know you are interested in dating other people for awhile. Think about how you would feel if your boyfriend had met someone where there was a mutual attraction and had kept dating you as normal while simultaneously keeping this other fire burning by staying in regular phone/email contact with the other girl. Your boyfriend deserves at least the same treatment you'd want for yourself.

If you are truly interested in dating other people you will have to deal with the very real possibility your relationship with your current boyfriend is done for good (as in, for life) - no turning back - so it would be wise to think about how you'll feel if you find yourself in the very likely scenario of having dumped your current boyfriend to date this other guy and then that relationship doesn't ultimately work out either. Anecdotally, my girlfriend (who was just a little older than you are now) of 3 1/2 years broke up with me for similar reasons (we'd dated since she was 18 and she wanted to experience causal dating since she'd never had that opportunity before) with the idea we might drift back together someday after this was out of her system. Ten years later we're both married to other people, so that let's you know how that went.
posted by The Gooch at 5:25 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Had I given him up back then to play the field I know I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.

Take statements like this with a huge pinch of salt. Likewise when people say they deeply regret dumping someone years ago. By definition, these people can have no idea of how much happier or sadder they'd be if they'd taken a different course of action. You can't base your actions on fear of future regret.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:38 AM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

YoBananaBoy and Rokusan - NO NO NO. Fear of being alone is a ridiculous reason to stay! Things happen all the time, and people end up alone even after they cling to relationships.

Anon-- I felt exactly the same when I was 20. The guy was so nice, his family was perfect (every time I was with them, it felt like my own family). I just knew I had to marry this guy and I was afraid I would never find another one like him. He was stable, motivated, completely marriageable if I were 30.

Long story short, it was a relief when we broke up (incidentally, I had wanted to do it for a long time but the last straw was I had a major crush on another guy and didn't want to cheat). I had been a wreck for a long time because I knew I wanted out but didn't want to hurt him. Once it was over, I had a clearer perception of how much I needed out and it turned out well for him, too.

Yeah, everyone stands a chance of ending up alone, but it sounds like you and the current guy are pretty doomed anyway (cross-ocean romances with someone you're tired of? No.) You're young, and there are plenty of guys who are nice like this one (and how do you know you've already got the perfect one now?) 21 is a great time to meet other people-- not because you have a slut-around-free pass, but because you meet a lot of people and have the time (and good-looks) to date. Don't sit at home for 4 years and wait until you're out of college and have to go to bars to meet people. I have dated several more nice guys since the original one, and I'm sure you didn't meet the only nice guy on the planet.
posted by parkerjackson at 6:17 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

it might be time to amicably move on, but be aware that falling in love doesn't mean the end of temptation. no matter how wonderful the person is that you share your life with, you'll always meet people who are mysterious and interesting and appealing, and you'll probably have doubts.

if your current relationship is going strong, and you're happy with it, i don't think there's any reason to end it. on the other hand, if you're getting restless, it might be time. you two are still growing up, and it's entirely possible that you're also growing apart.

i'm sorry if that's not clear. there's no right or wrong answer. you have to go with your gut and if it's a mistake, learn from it.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:56 AM on September 1, 2007

stick with and appreciate boyfriend until inevitable break-up

If you are sure you will be breaking up with this guy at some point, why are you even with him? Find someone to date who doesn't make you wonder when you should break up with them.
posted by yohko at 11:59 AM on September 1, 2007

Always remember to be slightly wary of the 'instant click'.

Is he or has he ever been a car salesman? If the answer is Yes, run. If the answer is Yes and quite sucessfully, you run! Now, run like the wind and don't ever glance back. (This may include other types of sales. Just use the Snake Charmer rule of thumb...)

But for the rest of your question, it would all depend on your definition of a sucessful and ideal relationship?

Crushes are awesome and thrilling. There's nothing like it and I love them with every fibre of my being. But this shouldn't factor into whether your current relationship is either done or still good. If you were happy and content before you met the new guy I'd keep that in mind. If you were unhappy I'd say new guy or not keep that in mind...

Pick out what the real question is and flip a coin. If it lands and your pleased and relieved. There's your answer. If you're disappointed with the result. There is your answer.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:37 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

the OP is more than just tempted - she IS sneaking around - she is ACTING on her feelings. Guess what that means - she IS cheating then. Its not murder-level cheating as he says, but it is dishonest, it is not fair to the boyfriend, and it is unethical.

I really want to agree with you.

But my personal boundaries are set up to the "physical intimacy" mark, not the emotional one. It is ok that there are others in her life that she believes are wonderful.

I just better be one of them.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:01 PM on September 1, 2007

Always remember to be slightly wary of the 'instant click'.

Seconded. That's a really good point. It seems that a lot of people who are the object of the "instant click" turn out to be nightmares in relationships.
posted by jayder at 10:18 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

sounds like maybe you just break up with boy anyway, but i dunno. but you can have both: polyamory or consensual nonmonogamy. the idea of having sex with only one person is arbitrary.
posted by Furious Fitness at 11:09 AM on September 2, 2007

Personally, I don't think that 21 is too young to be married.

I got married at 20, to my husband who was 19 at the time.

I have, over the years, experienced some quite powerful attractions to other people - there are quite a few guys over the years who I would have loved to drag home and bonk like rabbits for a few days. Or sit for hours and hours talking about everything in particular.

But none of those guys could have partnered me. Sure, they would have been some fun for a fling and a friendship (there was chemistry on quite a few levels), but none of them loved me. And quite frankly, I didn't love them either.

Some of them have remained (platonic) friends. Some are quite good friends. But I'm not about to break up with my husband for any one of them, no matter how good friends they may be.

Of course, this depends on your relationship with your bf. There's a bit there about his relationship with you, but not yours with him. My husband thinks I hung the moon; he's there for me whenever I need a shoulder; he's my best friend; he tells me he loves me all the time; and we're described as sickeningly cute by friends. I've got a good thing, here, which suits me perfectly. It wouldn't make sense for me to throw it away for something that might last only a year or six months. Do you see your relationship with new guy lasting as long as your current one? Longer? Do you know this guy, or is he just an itch?

Either way, I'd give it a couple of months. If you're still crazy-attracted to this new bloke, *and* like him for who he actually is, *and* think he'd suit you better than bf, *and* think that any of the above is enough to outweigh the current relationships, sure, go play the field.
posted by ysabet at 8:18 PM on September 2, 2007

"Always remember to be slightly wary of the 'instant click'."

More than "slightly." An 'instant click' is a sign that you're psyching yourself into something and/or the other person is. Maybe that night your "buttons" were "lit up" so brightly all he had to do was push them.

In contrast real intimacy takes time to develop. (And even then it's seldom worth much, as scads of dysfunctional marriages prove.)
posted by davy at 12:27 AM on September 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

Well since sticking with your nice boyfriend is apparently doomed to failure no matter what, you may as well break up with him. If there is an option E you didn't write down, which involves sticking with your boyfriend and being happy, i'd go with that. If you aren't happy though, and you don't see yourself being happy with your current relationship, then yeah, jump ship.
posted by chunking express at 8:52 AM on September 4, 2007

I second everyone who said something along the lines of 'Meeting someone at a party and having a nice chat has nothing to do with what kind of relationship you'll end up in with them.' It's trivial to 'click' with someone over music and free food/drink among friends. If you don't want to stay with your BF then end it, sure, and don't prolong things out of loyalty to something that's probably (by your own perverse insistence) going to end soon enough anyhow. But if this new guy knows you're dating someone and still propositions you and pursues you, then:

1) he's a cunt;
2) don't go running after guys who are cunts;
3) you're quite young but not too young to learn the difference between hormones and sustainable partnership;
4) see above re: 'he's a cunt.'

Remember, most of the 'be young and carefree, ditch him/her and fuck like a bunny!' advice on this site comes from a vocal minority; by and large it's not a good idea to obey your every impulse at a goddamn college party. Most people here live by that principle, sensibly enough. Your refusal to sleep with this guy is no big achievement.
posted by waxbanks at 1:17 PM on September 4, 2007

But: I second chunking express (about whose username I can never tell, is it a typo or a text-processing pun of some kind?). If the relationship is really done, get out. Of course, for your sake and his. But then don't insult your boyfriend and your readers by insisting on how much you love and adore him - which usually means adore/love being in the relationship as well - then implying (at far greater length) that it's perfectly reasonable at this point to go out and bang this stranger because your clitoris told you to.
posted by waxbanks at 1:21 PM on September 4, 2007

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