Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by freelance writer, Rachel East, AKA ReginaRey.
I’m a 23-year-old college student who recently broke up with a boyfriend of one and half years. This said boyfriend, “S”, is 10 years my senior, but the relationship was fantastic and we even talked about moving in together after graduation. We spent an amazing year together, until S met and started associating with a negatively-influencing group of 30-something-year-old club rats involved in both doing or selling drugs and other seriously illicit activities. He would go out partying and drinking 4-6 nights a week, mostly with girls who I disapproved of. The behavior escalated until he got into physical fights and was left with bruises and bloody lips. One night, he was even involved in a drunken car crash.
This out of control, disrespectful behavior lasted 6 months, and the last straw for me was when I found out (he didn’t tell me this) that he had gone out to dinner with one of the girls in that group and had her in his hot tub. I felt like I had no choice but to leave. We didn’t speak or have any contact until about a month ago, three months after the breakup.
We started talking, and things picked up. He’s toned down the partying slightly, but it’s always one event or another — someone’s house party or a birthday — one excuse to go out and drink after another. And now we have fallen into the pattern where we are have sex and spend time with each other, but I still haven’t met his friends and he doesn’t spend any time with mine. We are in a limbo — in a pseudo relationship — and I feel like I am making a mistake again. We talked about getting back together officially, but I don’t think I can do it if he’s living the lifestyle he currently has. I don’t know what I should do, because I am still madly in love with this man, and I feel that he is too, but what next? Do I need to face it and MOA? — Club Rat Lover
Your friends-with-benefits-style-boyfriend is a man-child. He may be 33, but he’s acting like a seriously immature 18-year-old. I could go on about how he should grow up, stop acting so irresponsibly, and cease communication with the club rat crowd. But I’ve learned over time, thanks in part to some insightful commenters on this very site, that bashing your boyfriend won’t do any good. He’s not the one who wrote in, is he?
But you did. And the truth is, you’re entirely responsible for the situation you’re currently in. Newsflash: Your boyfriend wants to live his life this way. How do I know that? Well, because like you said, “there’s always something” when it comes to him. If he really wanted to stop the partying, quit making excuses to drink, and stop hanging out with a crowd you disapprove of, he would have after you broke up the first time!
Right now, he has the best of both worlds. He gets to live the life he wants AND continue to have sex with you. Even better, he doesn’t have to hang out with your friends and he doesn’t have to introduce you to his. What you call unpleasant limbo, he calls the ideal FWB situation.
Stop waiting for this guy to change. He isn’t going to change for you, or for anyone else, until he decides he wants to live a different life (and maybe he’ll always be happy with the way he lives…that’s his prerogative!). You shouldn’t be trying to change him or waiting around until he’s good and evolved to where you want him to be. If this was the right relationship for you, you would have naturally accepted your boyfriend for who he is. You wouldn’t be hoping he’d change, wishing he’d become more responsible, and praying that he’d stop making lifestyle choices that you don’t approve of.
It’s ok that you disapprove of your boyfriend’s lifestyle, by the way. But it’s not ok to ask him to change for you, or to stick around trying to make yourself accept something you can’t. What is acceptable is for you to move on. And most importantly, don’t communicate with him again. The reason you’re still “madly in love” with this guy is because you didn’t give yourself long enough to get over him before you started communicating again. If you do what’s tough and break all communication, stay single and allow yourself to fall out of love with him, I guarantee in time you’ll see the incompatibilities that you can’t see now.
And as you enter singledom again, I hope you’ll remember something: There are guys out there who are already right for you. They maintain a lifestyle that you’ll not only tolerate, but want to be an active part of. Give yourself permission to have your own standards. Don’t feel guilty if there are certain qualities in a man that are dealbreakers for you. You’re allowed to disapprove of things! You’re allowed to be unhappy with some kinds of behavior. What you’re not allowed to do is try to force someone into your mold, or force yourself into someone else’s mold. Have more self-respect than that.
*ReginaRey (Real Name: Rachel East) is a full-time Events & Promotions Coordinator and a part-time freelance writer focusing on dating and relationships. One day, after tackling grad school, she plans to be your Marriage and Family Therapist…because the only thing better than talking about relationships all day is getting paid to talk about relationships all day. You can check out her weekly column here and follow her on Twitter @MissRachelEast.