Posted by fxckfeelings on January 12, 2012Share This Post
People say that the most important factor in relationships is timing or chemistry, but you can’t have a relationship to begin with without luck, and you can’t be a loser in love if you don’t take your bad luck personally. A good match is hard to find and a not-good-enough match is hard to leave, but as long as you do a good job searching and, when necessary, leaving, you’ll never be a loser, regardless of whether you get “lucky.”
I am in the fourth year of a partnership with a great guy—smart, athletic, caring, fair, trustworthy, all of it—but I am bored out of my mind. Although he loves outdoor activities like biking and skiing by day, his only hobby in the evenings is watching TV. I am a musician, artist, craftsperson, not an outdoor whiz, and I feel like I am completely uninspired in this situation. I have talked with him about at least not watching TV every night, and we try for a while, but it always ends up back where we started, with him watching TV, and me in another room reading or doing something somewhat productive, or just giving in and watching with him (I hate TV, wish we didn’t have one). I want to do things together but he is not interested in any of the things that I am interested in. Maybe this is just the most a person can hope for in life and I’m spoiled for wanting more than loyalty and love from someone, but I feel guilty all the time for hiding these thoughts from him. Maybe he would be better off without me, too, you know? Maybe I should let him go so he can find a girl who is really IN LOVE with him.
How much you love someone depends, in part, on the effect of partnership on the necessities of your life, as well as your interests. In your case, however, you don’t seem to see partnership as necessary for the necessities, so the difference between what you two want may be be more than television.
If you’ve been struggling to make ends meet and/or raise kids and someone enters your life who’s decent and willing to share the load, you’re probably going to wind up loving him, even if you don’t love everything you do together.
On the other hand, if you’re a fairly self-sufficient person who doesn’t need a partner in order to have a decent standard of living and raise kids, then there’s no reason to live with anyone who doesn’t ring your bells or leave the couch.
You didn’t mention kids or finances, so I assume you’re kid-less, and, despite being an artist and musician, miraculously not broke. If that’s true, then what do you need this guy for? If you haven’t grown to depend on him after four years of living together, and you’re not eager to have a family, then it’s hard to see him as a better off with you since you don’t really sound better off with him.
Be careful not to get paralyzed by guilt. You can’t control your feelings about him, and what you’re going to do next isn’t about failing or lacking, it’s about evaluating how well the two of you match up and deciding whether that match suits your goals. So add up what life would be without him (the effect on your time, bank account, plans, etc.). You sound as if you’ve done this, but sometimes, feeling guilty can prevent you from doing routine accounting.
If, as you suggest, you can do better without him, don’t feel defensive about letting him go. You both made a good effort to make it work, and you have many good things to say about his character and can be sure he’ll do well with someone else. You’ve just seen many big differences in your interests and activities and have gained a healthy respect for their importance in making a relationship work. Neither of you were stupid to try this relationship, but, despite being a good idea, it was a near miss you can both learn from. You’re doing the right thing for both of you by moving on.
If the pain of breaking up is more his than yours, that’s not as important as the other stuff you evaluated. As a matter of fact, you suspect he may well have an easier time finding his next match than you will.
If this experience has taught you about your needs and you respect what you’ve learned, you’ll become better at screening out your dates and ensuring that you don’t compromise your independence again unless you encounter a more compatible candidate.
If you aren’t happy with someone who’s “perfect” for you, then they probably aren’t. And if you don’t need a someone, period, give them the chance to find someone new (or spend more quality time with the TV).
“I wish I could like my boyfriend better and I don’t want to hurt him, but I think I’m better off without him and vice versa. I won’t let fears about negative feelings stop me from doing what’s necessary and remembering that break-ups are part of the learning process.”
Now that I’m 35 and looking around for a wife, I can’t help feeling that I destroyed my future by not marrying my college sweetheart. She’s a terrific person and we had a great relationship, but I wasn’t ready to settle down back then. So I dumped her, she found someone else, and now she’s happily married with kids and I’m a successfully executive who can’t find anyone to compare with her. The women I meet always have something wrong with them and I think my mistake has doomed me to die single and alone.
The biggest danger you face is not dying single, but dying defeated. Well, the biggest danger you face after death itself.
Some good people are single because they aren’t lucky about finding a mate—their lives are too complicated or, for various good reasons, they don’t meet someone who’s both available and on their wavelength—but that doesn’t mean they’re sad, lonely failures. They’re simply dealing with a mixed bag of luck, like everyone else.
As Christ might have said, if he hadn’t been so busy telling parables, what’s important is not whether you find riches or happiness, it’s how you deal with it when you can’t find riches and happiness. And, despite dying penniless, single and alone, he seems to have done alright for himself.
In addition, your negative attitude may be damaging your mate-search technique. While your college relationship taught you that you have a good capacity for friendship and partnership, it’s the timing that was wrong; your personal equipment—the size of your heart, and size is everything—has proven itself. So instead of feeling sad and defeated when you think of your old flame, be proud of your relationship and determined not to give up your independence unless you find someone just as good.
Assess the efficiency of your mate-search. Like any kind of search, it needs to be done efficiently or you’ll wear yourself out and then, see above, feel tired and defeated. That’s often a sign that you’re spending too much time on unsuitable candidates and losing your focus. Ask yourself whether guilt, horniness, or sentimentality are causing you to prolong pseudo-friendships that drain energy, reduce availability, and leave you yearning for solitude. If so, get a coach and learn how to do a good, tight search and a rapid, polite exit.
You can’t make yourself lucky, but you can be sure that there’s nothing wrong with your ability to be a good partner. If you’ve also given yourself the benefit of a good mate-search, you also know you’ve done your best. You may be sad about being single, but it’s not personal and it’s not failure. It’s just life, which, as always, is preferable to the alternative, no matter what your relationship status is when you enter it.
“I can’t avoid feeling that I fell off the deck of the love-boat after having been given a choice cabin for two, but I’ve made reasonable choices, I’m a good candidate, and I know what I’m looking for, so I will pursue my search with patience, I will not doubt myself, and I will never give up. “
More advice from Dr. Lastname