Saturday, February 22, 2014

Apparently, my situation is not unusual

Carolyn Hax: If a relationship makes you happy, is it a waste of time? 

(Sent from my phone)


  1. Excellent advice from Carolyn, as usual, which always boils down to: Be brutally honest with yourself.

    And what are your answers to her questions?

  2. Yes -- and that (being honest with yourself) boils down to how well you know yourself (because if you don't know yourself, you can't be honest with yourself).

    So I have mixed feelings about this because what I have come to know about myself are two things which lean away from the "living in the moment" idea: that I do get attached and that I'm really into this guy. So maybe I'll look back later and wish I hadn't needed to be in this place for as long as I have. But I'm here now and I've made peace with that.

    I used to hope he'd change his mind and as Carolyn says, that's a red flag. But something shifted and once I stopped making his feelings (e.g., him not wanting a future) about me and what was "wrong" with me, it was freeing. We can have a more authentic relationship now because we are just two people relating and nothing hinges on it working -- all that's required is just honesty and basic human decency. Which is really good for me because I have a tendency to put someone else's needs first in a relationship, even to my own detriment, but he doesn't need or want that and so it's like training wheels for a healthy connection for me. No drama, we don't fight, there's a solid bond of trust and friendship, and we enjoy each other's company.

    I don't know how long the situation will continue to be satisfying. Maybe until tomorrow? Maybe 6 months from now? I really don't know. When it stops feeling right, I guess.

    I probably will be extremely sad when it ends. But I don't think I will regret it. And that's what makes the difference for me.

  3. As you may or may not remember from my divorce blog, I was in a somewhat similar situation. I was in love with a lesbian (K) who'd never dated anyone, man or woman, before me. We became very close friends, but she was reluctant to date me. But K fell for me anyway. I knew it would have to end one day, but I held on tightly for as long as I could, like riding a mechanical bull, because being with her was so incredible.

    I did hope that she would change her mind, but I don't think I was fooling myself, because I always knew it was a long shot. Everything about our relationship was a long shot, so I kept going with it. I gave myself a 5-year deadline: I would not pressure her into any (further) commitment for five years. I was just happy to be with her. It was like an addiction, and I just wanted to bask in her gloriousness for as long as she'd let me. She ended it after 10 months, and I was crushed, but I never for one second regretted a thing. It was invigorating to love someone so completely, so passionately, and to feel like for a moment I touched the sun. Eventually I found someone else, probably someone better FOR me, and although I'll always feel like K was the One Who Got Away, I can also create the narrative that K was an important stepping stone to finding my wife, who makes me happy in a more measured and balanced way.

    I've followed your story with The Cyclist (on this blog) from the beginning, and so I wonder how the two situations are the same, and how they’re different. The thing I’m always wondering about is what The Cyclist wants from you, what he’s getting out of this relationship, and what he wants FOR you. What does he tell you about his feelings? What do you just assume? (I get the impression from this blog that you’re very good at jumping to conclusions.) You say again and again and again how kind he is to you. Does he know what you want, what you’re going through? What is his motivation in all of this?

    With K, we never considered dating other people. There was a slow, steady climb towards intimacy. We were dating. We were exclusive. She eventually called me her boyfriend. From the very first moment, I never tried to pull back or wondered whether I should be with her. I went ahead full steam. I knew she had doubts, but I didn’t let that stop me from jumping in with both feet. I had no doubts.

    I know you and I are different people. Like me, you seem like a fun, smart, damaged person who’s looking for love. But what I’ve seen in this blog is a lot of ambivalence. A lot of uncertainty and second-guessing about The Cyclist. You’ve pulled away and come back to him several times. You know yourself best, and if you honestly feel that you will eventually come out of this relationship feeling stronger and more confident, then I say enjoy it as long as you can. Like the Byrds song (and The Bible) says, there’s a time for everything. If this is your time for diversion, a time to heal, your time to get your groove on, a time to put yourself out there with every expectation that you’ll get hurt, then go for it. I’ve been there, and it can be wonderful. But if your ultimate goal is a happy, stable relationship, then ask yourself if this is the right path.

    Good luck!

  4. I remember K -- gosh, that was a while ago. I remember at that time, thinking that you deserved more, and that was for a bond that is definitely stronger and more cohesive than mine. I also really like the perspective that even if you miss some of what you had with her, you can feel like it added to who you are today in a happy new union. What steps did you take to get there? Did it feel natural and easy or did you have to push yourself to move forward?

    I let myself fall for the Cyclist last year, and then we broke up over the summer. When we started going back out in the fall, I felt something in me shift from the gaga place I'd been to more of a reality. I realized I had been too consumed with whether or not he would ever start to develop deeper feelings for me to evaluate whether or not *he* was actually right for me. And when it comes down to it, I don't think so -- at least not unless our emotional connection shifts or he does become really into me and shows it. So I think some of my ambivalence is from that. The relationship is too emotionally distant to be on the long-term table for me anymore.

    My friends (like Carolyn Hax's letter-writer's friends) think I should move on from this relationship but I find myself torn: I love his company and I adore our time together. But does spending time with him mean I'm not making room to find someone who can really love me? Or can we see each other until one of us finds another real option? Both those thoughts make me somewhat uncomfortable. I don't really know what hindsight will reveal.

    Maybe it's easier to see from the bird's-eye view so I really appreciate your thoughts.

    I am ambivalent enough to have joined a "class" on dating while regrouping internally. How long after K did you meet your current sweetie and what was it like for you then? What did you do to move forward? Looking back, what advice would you have for yourself?

  5. I understand how amazing it is to let yourself fall for someone without holding back. I *did* that, I was there. Sometimes (most times) when I wrap my arms around him at night, the feeling comes flooding back and it's a wonderful euphoric rush. But I can't let myself succumb to it and just let go. I can't let myself love someone who doesn't love me back. So that's why I'm ambivalent.

    I never answered your questions: what does the Cyclist tell me about his feelings? Nothing. What does he want for me? For me to do whatever feels right for me. What does *he* get out of the relationship? I'm not totally sure. Companionship? We have fun when we're together. That might be all, though enough. Does he know what I want? He does, it's not a secret but I have tried not to make it his responsibility to fulfill me.

    Good questions, it's good for me to face some more realities here.

  6. Well, it took me quite a while to get over K. For a long time I was convinced I would never find anyone who thrilled me as much as she did. And to be honest, I haven’t. I’ve found something different-- solid, stable, but not crazy passionate.

    The best thing I did to move forward was that after K and I broke up, we decided that we needed to detox. We had no contact whatsoever for 6 months. Then we resumed contact, but only over email. Now we are Facebook friends and email pen-pals. We write about once a month. It helps that she’s not dated anyone since me. I still don’t know how I’ll feel if/when she does, but I really have no right to be jealous, considering I’m in a happy relationship now. I’ve been lucky.

    After we broke up, I went on 6 first dates over the next year, but none of them went past the 2nd date. I often used the convenient excuse that I was not over my ex to let them down. It was about 10 months after we broke up that I met my wife on an online dating site. (In a freakish ironic twist, they know each other! Although they never lived in the same state together, my wife went to college with K’s sister.) I still wasn’t entirely over K, but the distance between us helped. Things went very, very slowly with my wife, and we almost broke up several times at the beginning, but we’ve slowly built a life together. It’s very different than any other relationship I ever had-- less fireworks, more stability. The biggest litmus test is that I’m truly happy. I’m able to be the best version of myself.

    Here’s what jumps out at me about how you describe your relationship: “I can't let myself succumb to it and just let go. I can't let myself love someone who doesn't love me back.” I think the most important trait in a good partner is to let you be who you are. You should never have to hide or suppress your feelings to be with someone.

  7. I am intrigued by what you said here: "The biggest litmus test is that I’m truly happy." Since it started so slow, did that feeling exist from the beginning, or did it dawn over time?

    I once read a great article on relationships (I can't remember the name or I'd paste a link here) but it quoted some guy saying that he realized when things "clicked" for him with his now wife was when he decided to love her. Like, I never thought of love as being something you could *decide* to do, but maybe there's an element to that. Deciding to let go and jump in. Did a switch flip for you or did feelings develop very slowly? One buddy of mine had a switch flip but that's the only time I heard of that happening.

    One sec, my mom is calling...

  8. Okay, back.

    I also meant to ask, what does it feel like to be truly happy? I feel content a lot of the time and sometimes even joyous (both alone or with the Cyclist) and I do feel like the joy I get in his company is *my* gift.

    We went to see a movie recently and I heard him laugh with that adorable cute exhale he does and I felt a surge of happiness like electricity go through my chest. So that's like my special present. But I also feel grounded. It's like diving into a delicious dessert: while the experience lasts, it can be transporting. But there's no fantasy that I can eat like that every night.

  9. A case for (or against) empty calories? :)