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.
JK December 6, 2011, 7:18 am
Great advice RR.
Why do so many LWs and people in general (although perhaps, more often women?) feel the need to change the person they´re with??? How can a person claim to be “madly in love” with another, but then want to change that person?
Budj December 6, 2011, 8:35 am
A bird in hand is worth two in the bush….(maybe)
cporoski December 6, 2011, 9:08 am
I think she likes 90% of this guy. He is good on paper and sees the man he could grow into and is holding on to the dream. More importantly for her, she likes the guy he was. He did change and she didn’t. She should MOA but I can see why she is still in it.
cookiesandcream December 6, 2011, 10:30 am
I agree with you on this. A lot of times people date others for their potential rather than what they really are. They want to believe that they can be the one to change their significant other and be that special person in their lives. I think the LW is still holding onto the person her boyfriend was at the beginning, but just needs some more time to process reality.
PFG-SCR December 6, 2011, 9:17 am
“How can a person claim to be “madly in love” with another, but then want to change that person?”
I think it makes a lot of sense. There is a difference between not liking a person vs. not liking a person’s behavior. It’s the latter that she has an issue with, not the former. However, you have to take them both together when you’re involved with a person, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to let go especially because you fundamentally like the person and hope that the behavior aspect will change.
savannah December 6, 2011, 9:24 am
Also because people do change. I know classic advice is always don’t try to change people. however people change on their own and when they have growth within a relationship. Plus the LW writes of drastic change with her BF during their relationship. She might still be in love with the man she met, not the man she quasi-has. Thats got to be pretty heartbreaking.
amber December 6, 2011, 11:10 am
i agree in this case this is what has happened. she knows what he used to be like and is still in love with that guy and wants to change him back. different from people who start out the relationship wanting to change someone. and much more heartbreaking.
LennyBee December 6, 2011, 11:32 am
That’s true – it’s hard to say “don’t try to change people, they’ll change on their own” when you’re faced with a man who DID change. For worse. It’s hard to accept that that change was made of his own volition, and that nothing you do will change him back.
meaghan December 6, 2011, 10:59 am
Because of movies like Beauty and the Beast; if you give that violent, immature, and disrespectful man your love he’ll magically change into the man of your dreams. I think another part is that when you make it to the year mark there’s this pressure to make it ‘work’ so all that time hasn’t been wasted. Personally I don’t see a year that long of a time period in the big scheme of things, but when you’re young its a huge investment. So you’d rather stay and do whatever it takes so it works rather than have a ‘failure’ of a relationship that didn’t go the distance.
*HmC* December 6, 2011, 1:33 pm
I have a weird feeling that this guy is really attractive. I can’t even articulate why I think that…
Christy December 6, 2011, 2:26 pm
“I think another part is that when you make it to the year mark there’s this pressure to make it ‘work’ so all that time hasn’t been wasted. ”
This! It’s called the investment effect. It’s also the case that we perceive relationships ending so negatively (failures) that people feel like things have to be *really bad* in order to leave a relationship. Otherwise “you didn’t work hard enough” (that phrase is used a lot in reference to divorce).
Jess December 6, 2011, 7:41 am
“There are guys out there who are already right for you.”
this this this!
Skyblossom December 6, 2011, 7:42 am
Your boyfriend changed drastically a year after you met him and now he’s not the fantastic guy he was and you don’t have the fantastic relationship you mention during your first year together. He’s choosen the group he hangs out with, he’s choosen them in spite of you, he’s choosen them instead of you. You know that he’s not good for you and no longer compatible with you but you still love him. The only way to put this behind you is to quit seeing him, stop talking to him, stop texting. Quit having sex with him. Every time you have sex with him your body pumps out oxytocin which keeps you emotionally attached to him. If you want to move on you have to cut him out of your life in every way. At first it’s hard, very hard and then it gets a little easier and after enough time you’re glad you’re no longer with him. Please give yourself the time to be glad you’re over him. Think of it as a gift from yourself to yourself.
bethany December 6, 2011, 9:11 am
LW, Re-read what you wrote: “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”
Unless you have seen him make a LONG TERM change in his lifestyle (I’m talking months without partying, not like 5 days), then you have no business getting back together with him. It’s clear that you both want different things. He wants to go out and drink and have fun with his friends. He’s not ready to settle down. It doesn’t matter how much you love him, or he may love you- If you’re both not looking for the same thing at the same time, it’s NEVER going to work.
Back off for a while. If he decides that he perfers a life with you (and without the excessive drinking and drugs), then make him prove that to you before you get back together with him.
leilani December 6, 2011, 9:26 am
I was in a situation somewhat similar to yours before, where my boyfriend at the time was getting much more heavily involved in a hard-partying crowd and was spending a lot of time with people who I thought were a negative influence on him. There were trust issues abound as well. I handled it the same way you did, unfortunately: I broke up with him, and after a few months, started seeing him (casually) again. I started to become more and more attached, which led to us getting back together, even though a part of me knew that it was a bad idea, and then breaking up again, and then getting back together again, etc. etc. etc. until I finally grew up and realized that as much as I loved him, he was not the right guy for me. What I initially thought was just a phase (and my bf was only 21-22 at the time) actually reflected a much bigger incompatibility–he was going through that phase because he was impulsive, immature, risk-seeking, and always searching for a new excitement, even if it was at the expense of our relationship. Now we’ve been broken up for a decent amount of time and we’re still really good friends; he isn’t a bad guy, just not right for me. But let me tell you, when he talks to me about the issues he’s having with his new girlfriend, I don’t envy her in the slightest. Even in a different relationship, he still has the same issues, and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Skyblossom December 6, 2011, 9:43 am
“What I initially thought was just a phase (and my bf was only 21-22 at the time) actually reflected a much bigger incompatibility–he was going through that phase because he was impulsive, immature, risk-seeking, and always searching for a new excitement, even if it was at the expense of our relationship.”
This is it. You are so wise. What he’s doing reflects his innate personality and it is a reflection of his true self.
phoenix28 December 6, 2011, 9:27 am
“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.”
Best advice ever!!
Ktfran December 6, 2011, 9:28 am
THIS STATEMENT. It doesn’t matter how much you love him, or he may love you- If you’re both not looking for the same thing at the same time, it’s NEVER going to work.
This could have been said to the LW yesterday. And last week. Also, if neither is willing to compromise, it won’t work.
Ktfran December 6, 2011, 9:29 am
Oop, I meant to reply to Bethany’s post up above.
TECH December 6, 2011, 9:48 am
I just find it interesting that you say you are “madly in love” with this man, but not once in your letter did you mention a positive quality or anything you admire about him. I get the feeling that this relationship is very passionate and there’s something you can’t let go of. There’s a strong possibility that you’re still holding onto the way things were the first year, when the relationship was “amazing.” But unfortunately it’s not amazing anymore. And his actions speak for themselves. I think you will save yourself a lot of heartache if you leave now. If you don’t, you will learn the hard way, and I’m afraid it will get worse.
LK December 6, 2011, 11:22 am
Ditto, this isn’t the first time that longing and uncertainty has been interpreted as love, when I. Reality, this situation has nothing to do with love.
Also, LW, sex won’t change a guy. I wonder if you’re willing to go along with this fwb situation because you think he’ll realize what he’s missing. What if he doesn’t? Would you still continue? If not, you probably shouldn’t have him as a fwb.
atraditionalist December 6, 2011, 11:50 am
Agree 100%. LW do you really think that by talking to this guy again and having sex with him he’s going to see his mistake. He didn’t see it when you dumped him. How do you expect him to see it when you are giving him everything he wants again?
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com December 6, 2011, 9:53 am
Ditto everything that ReginaRy/Rachel said!!
BriarRose December 6, 2011, 10:27 am
Ugh. I know this feeling all too well, although my ex-boyfriend wasn’t necessarily hard-partying, he was just in a different place than me. I was ready to settle down again after my divorce, he wasn’t, and us both loving each other wasn’t enough to bridge that gap. It’s sad and frustrating, but him wanting what he wants isn’t wrong, it’s just not what you want. And you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to convince yourself that you can somehow “make” it work. Everyone else has had great advice. Soon enough you’ll be able to see this relationship with the benefit of hindsight and acknowledge that it wasn’t a good match.
bagge72 December 6, 2011, 11:22 am
Ms. East and leilani are very smart you should listen to them!
atraditionalist December 6, 2011, 11:49 am
Why do women keep wanting to hang onto these guys who are clearly no good for them but they “love him” and have chemistry and yet are so quick to throw away a guy that is good for them but with “no spark”. I will never understand this. This letter and the roller coaster one and the one with the labels all have the same theme : HE’S NEVER GOING TO GIVE YOU WHAT YOU NEED. and yet they don’t know if they should try and make things ‘work’.
LW: you are not losing out by dumping this guy. Trust me.
Gaaaah these just drive me crazy!
cporoski December 6, 2011, 12:14 pm
I think this guy is going through the quarter life crisis hard. Honestly, LW, I think you are part of it. So in your early 30s, life gets pretty serious. The house, marriage, kids thing seems to be everywhere. I know a bunch of guys who party harder than they used to to prove they still have it. A 23 year old gf falls into that crisis. This is not always the case, but these party guys feel like big shots with young girlfriends that don’t expect as much as 30 something ladies do. Be warned, I have guy friends who got stuck in this rut for YEARS until they finally were ready to move on and grow up.
bittergaymark December 6, 2011, 12:49 pm
Gee, a ten age difference when you are still VERY young, problem drinking, drunk driving, drunken brawls, glaringly obvious signs of infidelity, excessive drug use, oh, and dealing too, separate lives, capped with his general disinterest in yours… Wow, what on earth is holding you back from that reconciliation? This guy is the man of everybody’s dreams! If only he’d start beating you! Then he really would be perfect!!
Okay, seriously. WTF?! This guy is all covered in “loser dust.” How can you not see it? Yikes. People always say that love is blind — but sadly it is also often downright stupid!~ (Not saying you, LW, are stupid, but your desperate, clinging behavior to this trainwreck of a relationship clearly is…)
MOA!!!!! You’re not trulyin love with him anyway. You are in love with the person he COULD be… Sadly, that person doesn’t really exist. Moreover, there is absolute no guarantee he ever will exist. Stop chasing shadows… For that is a sure way to end up alone in the dark.
ReginaRey December 6, 2011, 12:56 pm
Mark, I do love you. I made sure to state in my letter that bashing the boyfriend would do no good, to ensure that all the commenters (but you, in particular) knew that I wasn’t coddling the LW and bashing the the third party to no avail. And then YOU lay into the boyfriend haha. Not complaining, I think you’re right of course, but I will say that you always keep me on my toes.
AKchic December 6, 2011, 1:16 pm
Mark, I understand where you are coming from. We all see it, but this LW sees what he could be had he not succumbed to whatever it is that he has. She is seeing it from an optimistic side of “romance”. A wake up call may be what she needs, but at the same time; you don’t attract flies with vinegar, do you?
bittergaymark December 6, 2011, 1:33 pm
Eh, sometimes, I think it helps to simply be blunt about a guy’s fault. I mean, really, all I did was write up a list of details from her very own letter in a succinct way that I hoped might open her eyes a bit. Vinegar was necessary here, as she is obviously too sweet as it is. So sweet, she is obviously NOT seeing things clearly…
And while, I agree, AKchic, that it is obvious that all of you ladies on here… Clearly it is NOT so obvious to her. Far from it. Indeed, she needs to be woken up. I mean, in a way, it’s almost hilarious as I am usually bending over backwards on here defending the guys girl write in here about — but in this case there is simply nothing to defend. Drunkdriving?! I’ve lost three friends to that. All innocent victims in other cars, all in separate incidents. No, this guy is a loser and that is all there is to it.
It’s also especially telling that she didn’t seem to be able to mention even one good thing about her boyfriend. Seriously, not one thing… And yet she is STILL asking if she should MOA? Yikes…
Budj December 6, 2011, 1:55 pm
I think the age difference is clouding her judgement. Relatively speaking if it was the same guy – ten years younger – she would think he was a wreckless d-bag…but because he is 10 years older…he is a wise and hott sage that got pulled into the wrong crowd.
bittergaymark December 6, 2011, 2:06 pm
Interesting. You may be right as far as this is her thinking. But to me, the age difference only makes him even more of a douchebag…
GatorGirl December 6, 2011, 2:19 pm
I disagree. The LW’s dude is over 30 – he should at least slightly have his shit together. In my experiance college aged males get basically a free pass for their reckless behavior – and girls fawn over it. Seriously, come to the University of Florida – it’s like an LMFAO video.
(I however find the behavior ridiculous at any age)
ForeverYoung December 6, 2011, 1:34 pm
“Stop chasing shadows” – if the comment of the week feature still existed that should make it. I get the desire to hold out for the guy he used to be…but that guy is gone. Sure he might change in the future – but sadly it won’t be this LW that changes him…. she is already in a pattern or accepting his bad behavior so he has no reason to change. Even before the break up he was acting like this for 6 months!
Tracey December 6, 2011, 2:58 pm
Cue Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” as LW begins packing bags and writing “Dear John” note in slow mo breakup reel….
Stop chasing shadows…BGM, please copyright that and print it on t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and make a cool tattoo stencil for those who need a more permanent reminder.
cporoski December 6, 2011, 3:16 pm
I liked the loser dust comment.
Tracey December 6, 2011, 3:42 pm
That would be the second wave in the marketing campaign – Cool Snarky Comment: The Sequel….
AKchic December 6, 2011, 1:14 pm
Personally, I wouldn’t doubt that there is both an alcohol abuse issue AND an age issue here.
The not wanting to grow old/grow up issue is one that most guys do face, and face in a variety of ways. Some do end up taking to the bottle, or masking with drugs. They figure if they can still party like a young 20 year old, then they haven’t aged, therefore, they are still young. Unfortunately, once the addiction/abuse cycle sets in – they can’t just get out of that lifestyle just because a loved one/girlfriend wants them to.
He was able to lessen, but not break away. That suggests abuse, not outright addiction. Outright addiction would mean that he couldn’t even lessen his “habit”.
You have two options really. Confront him with his addictions and tell him that unless he gets an assessment and follows the recommendations of the assessment, you will leave (and actually follow through), or leave immediately. The success rates of addicts/abusers (of drugs/alcohol) aren’t exactly the greatest, but, of those success rates, they do go on to live good lives. It is up to you whether or not YOU want to risk wasting your life with someone who won’t rehab the first time.
*HmC* December 6, 2011, 1:29 pm
“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.”
“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.”
You seem to have answered your own question. If this isn’t behavior you can live with, and it clearly does not seem like it is, then why would you go back to the same situation that you have extricated yourself from? You are young and potentially have many years of fun dating ahead of you, why do you want to hitch your wagon to someone that actively lives a lifestyle you are uncomfortable with, and behaves in ways that are disrespectful to you and your relationship? My vote is that you stop having sex or any contact with this guy.
MsMisery December 6, 2011, 1:36 pm
Every once in a while I think “Gee, I wish I had more of a social life.” Then I read about stuff like this and pull up my drawbridge again. No one needs people like this in their life, even the tiniest bit.
Tracey December 6, 2011, 2:55 pm
“We are in a limbo — in a pseudo relationship — and I feel like I am making a mistake again.”
Oh sweetie, if this is how you feel after being involved with this guy as long as you have, why on earth would you want to sign up for more? You’re 23. You’ve got so much life ahead of you, so many opportunities to grow, learn, expand, and meet someone who’s a better fit. This guy has 10 years on you and has shown you time and time again he’s happy with who he is and how his life is.
It’s hard, and you may genuinely love him. But he is the way he is, and he wants things to stay the way they are. Let him go and go find yourself a better match.
Calle December 6, 2011, 3:32 pm
Wow, he is the one acting like an idiotic teenager despite being ten years older than the LW. LW, DUMP HIM! You have a classic case of wanting the reformed bad boy. Let me tell you something. Sometimes bad boys reform themselves but it is rarely, if never, because of a girlfriend. You can’t fix someone. If you wrote in and said he has stopped partying and hanging around club rats, I would maybe think that there might be a chance. But he hasn’t. Wake up and smell the coffee and move on.
ThwLW December 6, 2011, 6:03 pm
I appreciate all the comments everyone has posted, including the tough love ones. One thing I didn’t mention is that I have a clear understanding of what the reality is, but some part of me thinks things will go back to how they were. I know what will happen, I’m just anxious to face and deal with the entire issue. It’s not as easy to walk away because this new behavior came out of nowhere, there was never an inkling that he had these interests. He was a nerd who built robots in his free time. I was hoping it was a phase, and now I’m reassessing my position. It’s so naive, and it’s a lesson I have to learn. The entire relationship has helped me grow in a lot of ways and I am very glad I went through it. Over the course of the last 9 months (since the initial behavior started), I’ve learnt the difference between compromise and being walked on. I’ve toughened up my heart, and I’ve realized that I do not need to bend my morals to accomodate his actions. Currently, he’s stopped with the partying and hasn’t gone out in close to 2 months, is making some effort to communicate properly with me. These actions, however, do not mean he’s reformed and perfect again, nor do I expect him to be. All in all, I thank all of you for your comments and support, sometimes it’s nice to get some backup!
katie December 6, 2011, 8:46 pm
LW, just remember- hold everyone in your life to very high standards.
Jay December 6, 2011, 8:33 pm
You’re only 23! Enjoy life, rather than waste time with an old child that makes you sad.
Sue Jones December 6, 2011, 9:39 pm
MOA! MOA! MOA!