I love her. Life is good. Should I leave?
May 3, 2008 8:13 AM   Subscribe

RelationshipFilter - I love her. Life is good. Should I leave?

I am an early-20s man, and I've been dating and living with my first ever girlfriend, love, and lover (she is a few years older than me) for 2 years or so now.

The relationship is pretty good. I love her. She really loves me.

But there is a nag in the back of my mind that says I could do better, and I'm just staying here cause of comfort.

We fight at a low-squabbling level every day or so, I want more sex than her, and there is a mismatch of both intelligence and ambition between us.

The thought of leaving her makes my stomach lurch. I don't want to be alone. Being with her is warm. She makes me smile, and from time to time, when I look at her, my whole being just wants to protect and support her.

In addition, she talks about wanting to be with me for a long time, and has said months ago that she doesn't think she can do better than me, and will give up on love if it doesnt work. I care deeply about her, and don't want to hurt her.

A few more ingredients to the mix: We just made a long distance move together. I have a complex about not experiencing life during my teenage years, and am deathly afraid of missing out on life experiences. (This all probably started when friends of mind talked about how they spent their teens/young-twenties having wild crazy random-sex). She is older and more interested in settling down/long term thinking than I

So MetaFilter: Thoughts on what to do with myself?

Stay with her and test to see if it fizzles or really bonds? Break now and get clean starts? Supress my disturbing mind and give this my best go?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, leave her. You have many things to do until you are where she is, by the sound of it.
posted by GoingToShopping at 8:32 AM on May 3, 2008

and there is a mismatch of both intelligence and ambition between us.

This is FATAL. Leave her, gracefully. If you don't, you will be kicking yourself until you do.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:38 AM on May 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Playing devil's advocate, if you really do feel love in your relationship, it seems like it would make sense to bring this up to her, and see how she takes it. How much have you talked about this with her?
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:46 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

She's in her mid 20's. She won't "give up on love" if you leave her. It will hurt, but most break-ups do. You need to follow your instinct and experience life and other people. Just be kind when you tell her.
posted by kimdog at 8:46 AM on May 3, 2008

I don't want to be alone.

This is the worst reason to stay with someone, ever. Alone can be great! And alone does not have to equal lonely. Worse is being lonely in a relationship with someone. That is the suckiest thing ever.

can/can't do better

Being with someone who stays with you out of guilt is not better. I would argue that she CAN do better by finding someone who wants to be with her, period.

The "can do better" line is always a red flag for me, always.

So, I would also recommend leaving gracefully. Will it hurt? You bet. Will you stop using her as a placeholder? You bet.
posted by jeanmari at 8:49 AM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you think you're smarter than she is, you shouldn't be together -- you'll both be unhappy in the long run, I suspect.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:50 AM on May 3, 2008

When people start thinking they can do "better" they're feeling crappy about themselves and are looking for someone "better" to inspire them. Inspire yourself.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:54 AM on May 3, 2008 [7 favorites]

Not to say that there are many destructive, bad, incompatible relationships out there, but I'm speaking of otherwise happy relationships with a low-level of dissatisfaction.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:56 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dude, I was in the exact same position a couple of months...only difference is that i have had a couple of umm "notches" under my belt....however even though I just turned 24 i've been in 2 relationships for a total of 7 years so I havent really been out there finding other people and finding myself. I broke up with my girlfriend of two years 3 months ago. We had similar issues.....I am already done with school and i am very ambitious (i am going for my masters and also do music on the side) and while she is doing what she has to do she seems to be in no rush to get to whichever place she wants to get to....I love being with her...looking at her...when she wakes up i used to think wow there's an angel sleeping right next to me...and her beauty was unequal...rarely did we we ever go and were not complimented as being a very attractive couple.....I loved her, i still do, but little by little i started not being the same with her, i started taking her for granted, i was soo busy with work and school that i didnt have time for her everyday, she would get mad cause she wanted to talk to me on the phone for hours...and i would be mad because i wanted her to be as busy as i was and then we would be on the same page (i would get home at 10 and 11 pm i dont want to talk to until 1am if i have 2 get up early the next day)......I made the decission to break up with her...which still hurts me but at the same time made me feel relieved......I also had the feeling our sex could be better but i wasnt sure.....i know now that that was the case (i've tried with other people since then)......End of the day...I will miss her and probably love her for a long time, but right now i am happy, my soul feels like i am in the right direction and having that conviction is a great relief, knowing that u are doing the right thing.....and you are doing what you really want to do in life is amazing, i hope that destiny (or maybe i'll force destiny's hand a little) brings us together sometime in the future but for now...i am fine just dating....
posted by The1andonly at 8:58 AM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

My thoughts are:

- You just made a major house move, let that experience settle in before you make another major life decision;

- You seem frightened that she is emotionally dependent on you;

- Your friends may or may not have had wild sex, but trust me, you have years and years to do the same at any time should you choose to do so; stop comparing yourself to them, because they may be exaggerating (my husband was a late bloomer too but he made up for it in his mid to late 20's);

- Wild sex is fun for a short period of time, then who are you going to wake up to? Some stranger who doesn't know you. After a while, it gets old;

- Rate your happiness with her right now on a scale of 1-10;

- Then rate your happiness on being without her on a scale of 1-10;

- Be honest with her about your feelings, without being hurtful, such as, "honey, you know I love you, and at the same time, sometimes I get scared about the future, do you ever feel the same?"

- Tips on how to have more sex with women (this is only my experience from a woman's viewpoint, your mileage may vary): do the dishes or laundry without being asked, randomly tell her how beautiful her face is (so you don't seem like you're focusing on her naughty bits), draw her a hot bath and insist she take some time to herself, give her a foot rub and don't insist on sex afterward unless she initiates it, grab some take-out or go to dinner and sit and listen to her, cook her a nice meal and serve it to her (even if it's an omelet), give her a big hug every time you come home, and tell her how much you love her when she's wearing old sweats and a big t-shirt. Mute the TV when she starts talking. Grab her hand and kiss her palm, pinch her butt once in a while, put a cold can of beer against her neck when she's doing dishes (being playful), and above all, don't criticize little things like her taste in magazines, clothes, or anything else that is reflective of her inner self. Woman hoard those remarks and it adds to their negative love bank. They will dip into them the next time you piss them off and fling them back like a poison dart through a blow gun. So bite your tongue about that stuff until it bleeds, man, unless she's an axe murderer or something. Oh yeah, and ask her why she doesn't want sex more. I did this with my husband and turns out it wasn't me, it was him, now all of a sudden we have lots more sex.

In a good relationship, you can negotiate changes: it's not all black and white. I go out and have fun without my husband and he doesn't care because we trust each other and he wants me to have fun. He truly cares about my happiness. Of course I am not out seeing other men, that would be a huge leap in most relationships. I have my own tastes and he has his, which is cool, why be with someone who is your exact carbon copy? If she is not ambitious enough for you or smart enough for you, focus on her good points. My mom is not ambitious as my dad and they have been married 52 years. She is just as smart as he is, however, she just hides it, I think.

It is always your choice what you do, and I commend you for thinking about the consequences. You must a very mature 20-something-year old, no wonder she loves you. There is no law saying you have to stay with someone, even if you're married to them (which you're not). How about you give yourself a little time to settle into your new digs, 3 to 6 months, and tell yourself you'll re-visit the relationship decision then?

If you decide to leave, make it as peaceful as you can and realize it is not your responsibility to suffer if it's not working for you. But you don't sound like you're suffering too much, just wondering "what if?" I say let it play out a while longer and what happens.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:32 AM on May 3, 2008 [18 favorites]

Er, see what happens.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:39 AM on May 3, 2008

i think this passes the IYARSOTIYOKTA (if you're asking random strangers on the internet, you already know the answer) test.

at your age, do not stay with her out of anything less than love. (i think once you reach your later years, the equation changes, but you are at least 40 years away from having to make that call.) you both deserve happiness. she'll get over you. maybe she'll give up on love, maybe she won't. that's her call, not yours.
posted by thinkingwoman at 9:47 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

wow, got the too-long acronym wrong. this is what i get for being cute.
posted by thinkingwoman at 9:48 AM on May 3, 2008

You will feel the same in 5 or 10 years -- but then the sunk costs will be much greater and you will find yourself saying "y'know, what the hell let's get married". And it might work out just fine and be a comfortable and loving marriage. That's not the worst thing in the world.

But don't kid yourself that something magic will happen that makes you less of a "what would happen if..." kind of person. You will always wonder if you could have done better/differently.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Leave her while you still love her. Don't stay out of some sense of misguided obligation.
I was in your girlfriend's place once. Oh how I wish it would have ended earlier. I wouldn't have wasted 5 years.
posted by nimsey lou at 11:52 AM on May 3, 2008

I feel like you already know what you want/need to do but are looking for validation. Leave.
posted by heartquake at 11:52 AM on May 3, 2008

I have a complex about not experiencing life during my teenage years ... This all probably started when friends of mind talked about how they spent their teens/young-twenties having wild crazy random-sex

I'm with the "leave her" camp, but I want you to know how silly it will seem to you one day, when you look back and realize you left a great woman that you love all because you heard your friends talk about their crazy teenage sex shenanigans.
posted by jayder at 11:56 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think I probably felt this way for a long time, once I knew that it was sit-or-get-off-the-pot with my now-husband. We had been best friends for two years and loved each other in that way, but I'd had no experience with other guys, and besides that had read too many romance novels that said I was supposed to feel some kind of "passion" or "fire" for him. I dawdled for half a year before I made a commitment to him, because I was torn between the need for adventure and what I knew would be my first real, long-term relationship. I thought that kind of stability would be boring and confining, and I didn't want that to be my life.

In the end, committing to him and - eventually - getting married, was the best decision I've ever made. I wouldn't trade our steady, loving, respectful relationship for a single one of the passionate, orgasmic, tearful (and now, completely over) relationships that I was so jealous of and curious about before.

I guess all I'm trying to say is that while it's only human to wonder what would happen with you if things were different, if you broke up, etc. (I don't think that goes away no matter how long you're together - imagination is a funny thing), there is also great value in maintaining a relationship based on mutual trust and friendship. So I disagree with most of the people who say you should leave her.

Besides, it sounds to me like you're a bit emotionally overwhelmed with so many big changes all at once - especially a big move. Like too much commitment at once. Why don't you give it another year? You're young. If you feel like you're actually unhappy and don't love her any more, then reconsider.

I'm not saying any magic "spark" is going to suddenly appear between you two, but it sounds like you are comfortable together and that you do love her, which is very important. I think there is a lot to be said - and learned - for sticking it out. And after all, if you do leave, you'll always be wondering "what if?" about her.
posted by GardenGal at 12:17 PM on May 3, 2008

Since you put it this way -- "RelationshipFilter - I love her. Life is good. Should I leave?" -- then, no. I would require myself to be able to articulate the problem more clearly to myself before leaving.

* "don't want to be alone. Being with her is warm. She makes me smile...my whole being just wants to protect and support her:" not good reasons to stay, you will probably find them in any relationship

* "she doesn't think she can do better than me, and will give up on love if it doesnt work:" more a reason to leave than a reason not to leave

* "I have a complex about not experiencing life during my teenage years, deathly afraid of missing out on life experiences:" to me, not necessarily a good reason to leave. For one thing, it says nothing. If you stay with her, you'll have some experiences and miss out on others. If you leave, you'll have some experiences and miss out on others. If what you mean is "I'm restless and want to be single," that's a good reason. If what you mean is "I'm trying to match some stereotype of the perfect life," or "I am afraid I'm not living life 'right,'" or something along the lines of this thread, then I'd say, you might want to take a close look at yourself, particularly if the pattern repeats itself. Can you have crazy experiences with her? Are the experiences you're wanting to have diverging more and more from what she wants to have? That might be a reason to leave.

* "mismatch of both intelligence and ambition:" a good reason to leave
posted by salvia at 12:19 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hmm, I want to clarify:

"Being with her is warm. She makes me smile...my whole being just wants to protect and support her" is not a good enough reason to stay in itself. But if all that has a basis in admiring who she is as a person, maybe even wanting to learn and grow with that person over the years, that's a great reason.
posted by salvia at 12:20 PM on May 3, 2008

One more thing about your comment, "I have a complex about not experiencing life during my teenage years":

You're in your early twenties, so you're young and you may not realize this yet, but it's a thing that I have noted as I have grown older: it's very dangerous to look at earlier periods in your life, lament that you "missed something" during that earlier period, and frantically try to make up for it now. Because, as you try to make up for what you missed when you were younger, you may very well end up missing out on now, the stage of life that you are currently in, and so you go through life perpetually chasing after what you wish you had experienced ten years ago. People really do this.

I look back at my teen years, and I wish they were more like a John Hughes movie. People I know had much wilder teen years than mine; they have lots better stories about their teen years. But the value of really crazy teen years diminishes as you get further away from them, and build a rich adult life. You're in your early twenties, so you're at the stage in life when people are still bragging about what they did as teens. Trust me, that will pass soon and what you are sorry you missed will not matter.
posted by jayder at 2:25 PM on May 3, 2008 [12 favorites]

It's sounding like you're feeling a bit unfulfilled, dissatisfied, and so forth. Are there things that you feel you're missing, needs that are not being met, that are not of the romantic or sexual nature? If so, try filling that void now.

You could:
* Go to the local community college or community center and take a class or classes you find interesting
* Join a local sports team or league, or take up a martial art
* Go to a hobby or game store and pick a new hobby to try or a game to join
* Join a charitable or fraternal organization, or volunteer somewhere

If things get better then the problem is solved. Experiences will have been had. New people will have been met.

If things don't get better you may have built a new local support network and you won't risk being alone if you leave your girl.

Best of luck.
posted by tinatiga at 5:06 PM on May 3, 2008

@ Jayder: But the value of really crazy teen years diminishes as you get further away from them, and build a rich adult life.

I amend that to say: the value of ___________diminishes as you get further away from [it]. Period.

I've been going through a similar set of feelings and have really struggled with looking back over years of experiences (I'm in my 40's) and wondering what the hell it all was for. I feel like a fool sometimes for recalling the uber-angst I let myself get drawn into over people and situations that weren't even worth the breath it takes to talk about them.

I know this is only focusing on a small chunk of the original post. But if one of the building blocks of your unrest is the desire to experience the "wildness" your friends allege they experienced, please realize this: What may have been OK for teens won't work for you now, and to try to compensate with equivalent (but more age-appropriate) experiences now could get you WAY more than you bargained for.

And I bet that if you search this board you'll find more than one post from some former wild teen-party-boy who regrets every minute and longs with his whole heart for exactly the type of woman and relationship you're contemplating leaving.

Anyway, this sounds like a symptom. If you want to leave, leave. Don't try to rationalize it by saying you never got to have wild teen sex. Committing to someone at your age is bound to have growing pains because no one is who they really are in their 20's.

I overwhelmingly commend and praise any couples who married that young and managed to make it work. Lord knows I couldn't. People change and your relationship will either stretch to accommodate it or it won't. There is only so much you can do about it, but if you choose to try, it's tough. Is she worth that considerable effort? That's the real question.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:05 AM on May 4, 2008

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