I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend now for 5 years. I met Leigh when I was 19, fell in love, grew up together, and last year bought a house together; we even had an engagement ceremony so our family would feel more at ease with us living together. Even though it was just a front, Leigh already sees me as his fiancé. I think you know where this is going.
Last year shortly after we purchased our first home, I met a guy through an online game. Jack fell in love with me even though we have never met each other in person. We texted each other day and night for months and eventually things got progressively worse. We started “sexting” and it was then that I started living in guilt, every living moment. I sleep talk when I go to bed at night, and it didn’t take long until Leigh found out that I was cheating on him emotionally. I knew what a horrible person I have been and hated myself for enjoying having intimate conversations with Jack. Most of the time, I felt downright disgusted about myself. I stopped talking to Jack, and he continued reaching out to me telling me he needed me and can’t live without me. Jack texts me every 2 weeks to tell me that he trusts me and will always be there for me but I’ve ignored them all, as I believed he was a temptation I have to stay away from. In order for me to salvage my relationship with Leigh I need to fully devote myself him and one day we will get married and have kids and live our lives like all the loving couple in the world. Leigh being the perfect man that loves me more than anyone in the world, he forgave me and decided to trust me again.
I travelled solo as a backpacker just last week and made out with a girl and a guy that I met at a bar. I almost had sex with a guy I met at the hostel but I didn’t for I know I am in a relationship. I despise myself for even having the horrible thought and genuinely enjoyed being hit on by them, having them telling me how beautiful and sexy I am. I had the time of my life when I was there, for once feeling as though I am single. I thought I could just forget all about it once I get home, and concentrate on being the perfect girl friend again and wait for the feeling of wanting to be single to go away. Sleep talking didn’t help, as Leigh found out in my sleep that I have been apologising “for being a whore” and that “I’m sorry, I’m wrong”. He also managed to find a conversation of me and a friend regarding this situation. The guilt is eating me alive but I didn’t know what else to do. Leigh left me this morning, to travel by himself and to give me time to figure out what is it that I really wanted. He is willing to put a hold on this relationship and let me leave and “find myself” and “do whatever I want” as long as I don’t tell him any of that when I come home. I am with a man that loves me so much, enough to forgive me from cheating on him and would sacrifice everything in his power to make me happy. What more do I want? Am I really willing to let a man like this go just to fuel my desire of being single?
I realize this is probably terrifying, but what if you were single for a while? Deliciously, purely, awesomely single? Free to make out with anyone on the entire planet without it being at the expense of someone else? Without the guilt?
Either you are not wired for monogamy, or this role of Perfect Girlfriend to a Perfect Man with a Perfect Happy Life thing isn’t so perfect, at least for you right now. What you have is what you think you should want, and maybe it’s what you ultimately want five years from now or ten or twenty, but right now isn’t suiting you deep down in your bones. There is a part of you, a big part, that wants to be a solo backpacker and make out with the world.
If Leigh wants a monogamous relationship, and you don’t, then it’s maybe time to fess up to that and see where it leads you. Maybe it leads you to having to do a lot of paperwork as you disentangle yourself from home ownership, but maybe it also leads you to the love(s) of your life, out there in the world. Just because something is perfect on paper, or you can’t think of a good reason to leave it behind, or it really wants to forgive you and execute the plan you had for your lives doesn’t mean it’s right for you. It’s time to be really, really honest with yourself about what you want, and one of those things you might want to be honest about is whether Leigh does it for you in the pants/sexy/romantic/hot connection department.
I’m going to tell you a story. It’s about an attempt to have kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” experiment with non-monogamy you and Leigh are flirting with. After a few years together, an ex-boyfriend and I had such an arrangement, his idea, and I went along with it because I wanted to be cool, I didn’t want to lose him, and why the hell not? We were so in love and so emotionally evolved and cool that we could handle a “monogamish” sort of thing!, was his/our reasoning. (Note: I realize now that this was an example of extreme wishful thinking, thanks!) He actively pursued other partners, I did not. One night, however, I invited my boyfriend over to hang out – maybe watch movies, definitely do it – and he said he’d rather fly solo that night, so I decided to finally jump into finding another partner. (Acting out of spite is totally healthy, right? So evolved. So loving. So cool.) Anyway, I placed an ad online looking for a make-out friend and got the usual inundation of dick pics and misspellings, but also a smattering of replies from cool witty geeky dudes who wanted to hang out in my blanket fort. Including one from, you guessed it, my boyfriend.
I was…I need a fake or real German word for a cross between amused and furious…because that’s what I was. I wrote back, hahahaha, you’re busted (and sent a link to the above song) and then he was like “Ok, want to get together after all?” and I said “no, and also, eff you, you had your chance” and went and had a fun adventure with a visiting jazz musician and it was amazeballs. Just the perfect mix of sexy and hilarious and safe and kind.
That night should have been the end. The end of “the experiment.” The end of the relationship. I didn’t seek outside partners often, but every time I did I would get a little glimmer of, wait, THIS is what I’ve needed. THIS is what it’s like when someone is excited to be with me. I’m sure he had the same sort of glimmers. I loved my ex-boyfriend, he was hilarious and kind and a great friend and we got on well together, but That Thing was never, ever present for us, no matter how much we tried. We limped along for another year or so, but the only way things worked is if we got our sexy excitement needs met outside the relationship. I wish I’d had the courage after that night to say, you know what? I love you and it’s been a great run but let’s stop doing this to each other and just find someone who fascinates us and get on with being friends. It turns out in the end, I’m not poly-, or whatever. I’m not cut out for it. When my heart-needs and my pants-needs are congruent, I’m happy as a clam. I just hadn’t met the right person yet, and I didn’t trust the universe or myself enough to believe that I could. When I did, I felt it right down to the marrow of my bones. This is IT. I am HOME. This person is here with me. I don’t need an escape route, or a distraction, or a security blanket of casual attention to remind me of my worth. And I met that person in the middle of a period of being gloriously, happily single. My own place. My own bed. My own food in the fridge. My own time, my own priorities, my own music, my own dance parties. My own sadness, sometimes. My own living on crackers and things that spread on crackers. I was my own safety net, and my friends were there to remind me what love was. Single is great.
I tell you this because, you might just be someone who wants a lot of variety in sexual partners and who thrives on flirting and hooking up for a while. Or you might be someone who can love and be loved by more than one person. Or you might be a monogamous person who hasn’t found the right person to settle down with yet (and you still have miles hooking up to do before you sleep). Not wanting to be in an exclusive relationship with Leigh might be the start of you coming to terms with a different sexual identity than you thought you had, or it might just be a “Good Person, Wrong Time, Wrong For You” sort of thing. Do some reading and some thinking about that while Leigh is out of town, and think hard about the kind of life and the kind of love that you want, and then be honest with Leigh about what you want and see if it matches what he wants. It has to match what he wants, not what he is willing to put up with for the sake of a mortgage or a fairytale wedding or a terminal case of The Shoulds. That thing, where he can “forgive” you, as long as he doesn’t know about any of it? That self-sacrifice? That’s a trap, for both of you. You talk in your sleep. He will always find out about it. You will always be hiding a part of yourself, a vital, alive (& bisexual!!!!????) part of yourself. You will always be apologizing, on the verge of apologizing. He will always feel owed an apology. You will become “the bad one” and he will be “the good one” and every time you have an argument he’ll be there on some moral high ground looking down at you, and you’ll feel like you have to give him his way because after all he forgave you for sleeping with people. If this is how things are when you first move in together, before you get married, what will it be like 5, 10, 20 years in the future? I know it’s hard to imagine breaking up, but isn’t it easier to contemplate the idea that he’s just not the guy for you?
People survive divorces and breakups of serious relationships, the selling/reapportioning of the house, the dismantling of the books and the separation of the record collection. It’s expensive, but you figure it out. It’s logistics, and you can handle logistics. You break the lease or sell the house. You buy new kitchen towels. You find thrift store plates in every shade of blue. Someone gives you a replacement microwave. Your family, who could sorta kinda stomach the idea of you living together “in sin” if it meant you were going to get married someday? I have that sort of family, too. They just deal. Even my very conservative mom was like “Well, don’t marry the wrong person just to make me happy!” You will survive, Leigh will survive, if that’s what you decide to do. What’s harder to survive is feeling trapped, and guilty, and bored (you) or feeling unwanted, lied to, and unappreciated (Leigh). That kind of thing can eat years of your life away, so please don’t hide from it and hope that things will magically get better.
I wish you luck whatever you decide.