Need advice on tough relationship stuff
Hi, I haven't posted on here in a while but the advice I got was always helpful and I could really use some help with what I'm going through at the moment. Before I get into it: this might get long and pretty heavy, so feel free to stop reading now if you don't want to read a downer.
Anyway, so here's a bit of background on me and my relationship. I'm a gay guy who turned 22 this summer. I've been with my current partner for two and a half years, lets call him Chris (his birthday is 3 days before mine). We've been in a polyamorous relationship with another guy, lets call him Stephen (he was 25 when we met), since last July, which ended 2 months ago. Now, around the time we met Stephen and discovered polyamory I had been intending to propose to Chris. We met Stephen the week before we got engaged, and we hit it off. So we decided to try a tried relationship for a while. I think I'm polyamorous but the other two are mono, and to be honest I think I want to lead a mono life eventually, so I might not even be poly. But we decided to try it anyway. The relationship was only supposed to last for a couple of years, and I was young and naive to think it wouldn't be this difficult at the end.
Anyway, when I was first reading about polyamory and was learning all the terminology, I figured that Chris was my primary and Stephen would be my secondary, as it were. After a few months though we fell in love with each other and nearly broke up over it. But we cared so much for each other that we decided to try just enjoying the now and not thinking about the future. It was difficult at times, but we had some really good times and loved each other very much.
Now I met Chris when I was 19, we had so much in common and he was my first proper boyfriend. We fell quickly in love with each other and have spoken of being life partners ever since. Our relationship with Stephen was supposed to be an experience we could look back on fondly, and I made a promise to him that I would never love anyone more than him. I loved him and Stephen for different reasons, and figured that was ok. There was always a stronger bond between myself and Chris and myself and Stephen, but the two of them did grow to love each other. We would typically spend 2 nights a week together as each pair and one as a three, but that often varied. I kind of dealt with the whole organisational part of the relationship, it was me who spoke to each about the relationship and we didn't often talk about it together (which was stupid, I know).
But we were all very close, we even went on holiday together in June, to Spain, and had an amazing time. After that Chris and I were graduating. Chris's mother didn't know about Stephen and she was coming down for it, so Chris didn't want Stephen to come to dinner (and I couldn't get him a ticket to the ceremony). That really hurt Stephen badly, and I was extremely upset for him as well. We nearly broke again but being apart was too difficult and we weren't ready for it to end. Stephen said to me recently that that was the turning point for him. He'd been hoping that eventually things would change and we'd start treating him like a true equal in the relationship (something I would have been desperate to do, but that would have meant accepting him into the engagement or calling the engagement off, something I don't think either of us would have been ready to do). The graduation was the point he realised that wasn't going to happen, and he very slowly started distancing himself. It was a difficult breakup because it wasn't because the love had faded or because we didn't want to be together anymore, just that he needed to find a single person who could love him like Chris and I loved him.
I had just started a new dance course at college a week before Stephen ended it, and for a little while before that I was thinking that it needed to end soon for the sake of Stephens wellbeing, even though I didn't want it to. So I was strong for him, I gave him some space but talked to him when he needed it. With college and everything, I think I kind of put it out of my mind for a while, but then a few weeks ago it kind of all came crashing down on me. I started missing him horribly, and having spells of deep depression. I can't stop think about Stephen and how much fun we had together, and that I badly want our relationship to continue. I've seen him a few times since we broke up, but he used those couple of weeks that I put it off to try and move on. He's even been in a short relationship since that time, he says he really liked him, but he was young and had too many trust issues and stuff, and he went a bit mad at him on a night out two weeks ago (screaming at him on the streets and stuff) so he ended it with him. I found out a few days ago that he actually met him two weeks after breaking up with us, which I was actually quite hurt to find out, but he said he didn't want to turn an opportunity away so I kind of understand.
Things with Chris have been generally good in the past couple of months, he's very strong and he looks after me as it were. Chris is a really really great guy, he's loving, caring, hard-working, just really lovely guy. Recently though, I've noticed some things that have got me thinking that maybe this isn't the right relationship for us, but I don't know if I'm just thinking that because of where my heads at at the moment, or if I'm just for the first time giving these ideas some thought.
Basically I've changed a lot as a person in the last two years, discovered some things I'm passionate about, becoming slightly less passionate about other things. We both used to love gaming together, and all the same tv shows and books and stuff. Basically all the things we were most passionate about when we were 19. I've start to grow out of some of these things a bit - we still love a lot of the same things - I just feeling like I might be maturing a bit faster than him. I have a definitive life path I'd like to follow, it may have changed a bit in the last few years, but I know what I want to be and I want to start doing it soon. He has no idea what job he wants but has a degree in Psychology and wants to apply for a PhD next year. He also doesn't really want to move straight to the states from the UK like I want to now. I just wish he would have more of a drive and stuff.
There's also some attraction issues, I don't feel like I'm attracted to him as much as I should be. I'm a dancer so my body is in pretty good shape and I'm passionate about movement and stuff, whereas Chris has a tiny bit of weight on him, doesn't like to exercise, and isn't that graceful. I don't think that looks are the most important thing in the world or anything, but I never want to rip his clothes off, and the sex isn't that amazing, which I don't think is a good feeling for a 22 year old to be feeling. By comparison, I always enjoyed sex more with Stephen. I feel awful for thinking all this, but I'd always imagined I'd be single in my 20s, so my aspirations about the states generally involved being young and experiencing lots of things that I wouldn't experience in a relationship.
So Chris is currently in Spain with his dad until Wednesday, and so Stephen invited me out on Friday since we're trying to stay friends. I told Chris and he was totally ok with it and everything. When I was with Stephen it was both really nice and really difficult. He looks really good and spending time with him was so good, but it was so hard not being able to be intimate with him how I used to be. It was also difficult hearing about how he's been able to move on faster. He says that me and Chris treated him better than any boyfriend he's ever had and he wants to find that from one person, but that just made me wish I could be that one person. Anyway, we had a good night, some of his friends met us after a whole, and although I felt a bit awkward which was apparently obvious, after a while I loosened up and ended up having fun. We got back to his late because I'd left my bag there but it was too late to head back to mine so he said I could stay. We ended up sleeping together, and it was honestly so amazing. I don't know if it's ever been that good with Chris, or could ever be that good. I told Chris about what happened and he's ok with it and just doesn't want it to happen again.
So this weekend I've been having a pretty horrible time, crying uncontrollably ever time I think about stuff properly, so I end up just watching marathons on TV to take my mind off it. I really don't know what
To do about Chris, because I do love him so much, I'm just worried that we met too young and maybe rushed into things. Or maybe I'm just thinking all this stuff because I miss Stephen so much, I don't know! :(
Chris and I are living together, and we've always spoken very matter-of-factedly about our future, we'll get married, move around, have kids etc, so I can't even imagine breaking up with him. I couldn't even think of hurting him that much :(
But I'm also worried that I shouldn't stay with him for the wrong reasons...
I'm half worried I'm just thinking these thoughts because I miss Stephen so much and so desperately want to be with him that I'm considering the only option that would make that possible at some point, but the other half is worried that these problems I have with Chris are real and that as much as I think I love him and promised I'd be with him forever, actually we met too young and I don't want it to work out.
I know this got really long and is a really complicated story, so I'm sorry, but I could really use some help with this.
Please feel free to ask absolutely anything, thanks.
Oh my god, I'm so sorry that is so long! I actually had to cut it down a bit because it went over the 10,000 character limit! I honestly wouldn't blame you if you don't read this!
But if you do and I've missed anything out please just ask! Thanks again for any help you can give me
I believe that obligation only becomes a dirty word when fulfilling your obligations become burdensome. Sounds like yours have. Don't settle, dude. You know what would constitute settling in your situation. Pick the other, harder option. It will be best for everyone.
So this is a Life Choice of "which options stinks least?" rather than "win or lose."
To me? You are starting to feel lukewarm about Chris. You don't share as many of the same interests as when you first met in your late teens. He was the first serious BF -- you may want to keep dating in your early 20's.
You want to date Stephen.
So... call the engagement off.
A successful engagement to me ends in two ways.
1) The couple finds they are both joyously willing and able. So they move on to planning a wedding.
2) The couple finds both partners are NOT joyously willing and joyously able. Not one person, but BOTH people. So they choose to break the engagement and remain friends. Or they choose to EXTEND the engagement to see if they can become more willing/able with the passage of time.
At this time? You are not joyous willing. You are not joyously able. So could pick which stinks the least.
At this time? I think it could serves you better to stop watching TV marathons to check out and avoid thinking it out.
I think you could schedule some time to make your pros/cons list. Then figure out which one is moving it forward toward a future long term happiness. Even if you have to experience some short term UGH to get there.
Thanks for your replies.
The problem is that Stephen says even if I do break up with Chris we won't automatically get back together, he's not in the right mental place for it. But he said there could be scope for us in the future.
I think being with Stephen has opened my eyes to some ways I'm not satisfied with Chris. I still love Chris really deeply though and can't imagine ending it with him - it would absolutely destroy him :(
There's also no chance for the three of us being together again.
Basically I'm scared that I'm just thinking all these things because of how much I miss Stephen. I'm worried I'll destroy Chris by breaking up with him, only to have Stephen meet someone else in the meantime, or just not want to get back with me. I'm worried even if I do end it with Chris I still wouldn't be ready to be with Stephen for the rest of my life either.
But mostly I'm scared that these things I'm thinking about Chris are true and that he really isn't the best option for me. We've been together for 2 and a half years and we've always spoken about our future together as fact, I just can't imagine ending it with him :'(
But as much as I can't imagine hurting Chris or ending things with him, I miss Stephen so god damn much. It hurts how much I miss being with him, and I just wish there was some way I could turn back time to when we were all together and happy :(
Yeah, its two separate relationships. Treat them as if they are.
It is extra hard because Chris was first BF and and Stephen first break up. Now you contemplate break up with Chris -- and without having experienced break ups before it probably all seems extra vivid/hard. Experiences in the 20's are often like that -- first experiences are VIVID.
Your behavior of breaking up might disappoint Chris, but you are not going to "destroy" him. This is a romance ending, not murder. Could not fear the emotional response from Chris or let your own emotional upset blow this up bigger than it is.
It will be ok.
Could keep yoru focus on behavior done/not done and what needs doing here rather than fears.
You could remember that you can't hurt yourself thinking in the privacy of your brain. You could not focus on fearfulness. You could focus on letting emotions blow on through. Eventually internal weather storms will calm. Could focus on what you like to do to calm yourself -- take a walk for instance.
Could focus on what IS here.
If that is what you seek, align you behavior accordingly and do what you have to do to move toward that place.
Give you have time/space to heal and become a healthy dating partner for someone new.
You are in the middle of a grieving process. In time it will get better. Could google "stages emotional change" and see if any of the images brings you any comfort. Sometimes knowing it IS a process and basically you sit tight and wait for time to pass so you can see things differently could help.
Hang in there!
You are getting your two relationships mixed up, along with the possibility of not wanting to be tied down yet. So ask yourself this question: what you feel if you knew for sure that Stephen was never going to be an option? Would you still want to be free of Chris?
Now, on this I do not understand: it seems to me you three were practicing poly. Why did it have to end? And if Stephen wasn't satisfied, could not the dynamic have been changed so that he could have been satisfied? Why poly for just a couple of years?
Would Chris consent to polyshipping? Could you not keep Chris and still be free to experience others? Would you be able to allow Chris to see others?
Ah... so young. At 24 I was just ending a 4 year relationship with a man (I am still friends with) who I adored, but who was just not going in the same life direction as I was.
We were both devastated.
But-the truth is-we make such better friends than we did lovers!
By 25 I was marrying Maca-who I had met when I was only 13 and lost track of by the time I was 14.
I was also still in love with GG-but trying to ignore it, because frankly, he wasn't ready for a serious relationship, much less a ready made family (I already had a 9 year old daughter).
Now at 38, I am happily friends with the man who wasn't going my direction. I am still married to Maca, GG lives with us as my boyfriend and we're raising the last 2 of 5 children and enjoying our 2 grandsons.
You are young.
It seems like a catastrophic event to break up with the first love of your life. BECAUSE RIGHT NOW it is.
But-that is right now.
The truth is-regardless of Stephan-if you aren't joyously in-you OWE IT to yourself and your partner, to say so honestly.
Committing to something half-heartedly is cruel to both of you.
EVEN IF what happens is you tell him "right now, I'm not joyously in. There are things I need to figure out, I don't have all of the answers, I love you and I care for you. But I can't continue this engagement because I can't be sure I'm ready for this level of promise and commitment"
then later you both end up joyously in.
Its just not healthy to hang on to something that isn't true. I would say, especially a label. Fiance, is a label. It has nothing to do with loving someone. It has everything to do with an agreed upon level of commitment. If there is a risk you aren't going to uphold that agreement, he deserves to know it.
THAT is what makes relationships healthy. HONEST communication. Because we do change. Our circumstances change. Our lives change. Our goals, dreams, hopes, wishes, needs, they all change. We have to be able to speak up about these changes as they come.
And as I tell my sister who is 20 (and my daughter who is 22)- "Not now" isn't necessarily "not ever". But it IS critical to acknowledge honestly when something is NOT NOW. Because if you don't-you may ruin whatever is possible in the future, be that a friendship or more, if you lie (even by omission) now-you can destroy tomorrow.
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