I am a woman in my early 20s who is in a (mostly) good relationship with my boyfriend of a few years, “Chris.” While I love him deeply, I’m not sure he’s the “one.” Despite my reservations, based largely on my relatively young age and the fact that there exist certain incompatibilities that are becoming increasingly apparent, I have no desire to leave my relationship in the immediate future.
While I have never cheated on Chris and never would, there is another man in my life. I have known “Jack” since I was 15 and he was in his early/mid 20s. When I was 16, after a few months of platonic friendship, our relationship became more sexual in nature. While it was never fully consummated (we engaged mainly in oral sex) the experience was a profound one as it was my first sexual encounter. He was a family friend and one of my parents was aware there was a romantic connection between us but did know its sexual extent. After several months of this, he moved across the country for a job opportunity. I was completely heartbroken. He was my first love and I have never loved anyone with an all-consuming intensity as I did him.
Fast forward nearly seven years and Jack and I are still in contact. Our correspondence has waxed and waned over the years but we have never fallen completely out of touch. Lately, it has been much more frequent due to the fact I visited him (along with a work associate I was traveling with) while on a business trip near his city a few months ago. Needless to say, it was great to see him after all these years. However, my visit reminded that, like with my boyfriend, there exist certain incompatibilities that I believe would hinder a lasting relationship. I am older now so the eight-year age difference is no longer a problem but his commitment issues (he’s 30 and hasn’t had a real relationship since college), different lifestyle preferences and the fact that I don’t think he could ever truly love me and treat me like I deserve, are.
What complicates all of this is that Jack wants to come up and visit me. My boyfriend was upset that I visited him while on my trip and I don’t think he’d be receptive at all to rehashing this issue. I communicated this to Jack but he contends that he wants to come up mainly to visit the city I live in and my family (who he is old friends with but hasn’t really kept in contact with), not to see me specifically. So I said that I’d try to get together at some point if he made it up but would mainly leave him to his own devices. He then backtracked and said he didn’t want to make the trip up just to be “alone,” but still couldn’t admit that he really wanted to see me. It’s just like he has always said that he could see us being together sometime in the future and that he cares about me, but has never said that he loves me.
So what should I do? My brain tells me Jack’s not right for me but I am unable, and always have been, to let him go completely. I feel so stupid and am immensely frustrated that I cannot turn my feelings off for him, even though I am convinced he doesn’t deserve them. I would love for him to come visit, but I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with Chris. Should I cut off ties with Jack or continue to maintain a friendship? Am I doing wrong by Chris for feeling ambivalent about the future of our relationship but not ending it because I still enjoy it right now? Please help. — Between a Rock and a Hard Place
I’ll answer your last question first: you are only doing wrong by Chris by staying with him if he doesn’t know your ambivalence about a future together. Despite your young age, after several years together, he may think you’re on a track to something long/life-lasting, and if you know in your heart that that isn’t the case, you owe him the courtesy to tell him so. He’s especially deserving of this information if he’s at any point alluded to wanting/expecting a future with you. If he has, and you’ve let him believe it’s a possibility when you know it isn’t, you’ve essentially led him on, which is not only a cruel thing to do, it’s bad relationship karma. So, I suggest sitting down with Chris and having a conversation with him about where things stand. Let him know how deeply you love him and how much you enjoy being with him and are in no hurry to move on, but you also feel he needs to know that you don’t see marriage in your cards and if that’s something he wants to move towards, then he shouldn’t waste valuable time with someone who doesn’t share that same vision with him. This honesty may cost you the relationship, but in the end, it will save you a lot of drama and heart ache down the road. It will also free you to consider your situation with Jack a little more clearly.
When it comes to Jack, I guess I’m wondering: what’s the point? If you stay with Chris, you’d be making a mistake continuing a friendship with a man you know wants more from you. It’s unfair to Chris, for sure, and it’s unfair to Jack. And you, too, really. Why invest your already complicated emotions into something that isn’t going anywhere? Jack doesn’t want to be your friend; he wants something you aren’t prepared to give him, for a variety of reasons. Granted, you may not be able to magically turn off your feelings for the guy, but I can tell you what will certainly help you get there eventually: dropping all communication with him. Don’t go visit him, don’t let him visit you, and quit sending emails and texts and phone calls. Just MOA. Nothing good can come from continued correspondence with him. You’ll just keep feeling like there’s something there between you but not enough to really make a relationship work, and he’ll keep thinking you’re interested and continue coming between you a successful relationship with someone else (whether that someone else is Chris or not).
So, in a nutshell: come clean with Chris. Give him the courtesy of your honest feelings. And MOA from Jack. Do both of these things and the relationship drama and anxiety in your life with drop significantly — maybe not overnight, but definitely over the course of the next few months.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.