Lynn in Ann Arbor writes:
I began a relationship with someone in 1989 as my divorce was being finalized. We have been together since, not quite living together but spending the nights together. I always hoped we would marry, but there was always a reason not to. In the summer of 2006, I realized that the relationship was stale, it was going nowhere – my boyfriend was paying more attention to and giving more attention to our dogs than to me. Our sex life was basically dead. Before I got up the courage to end the relationship, I came in contact with an old friend. He asked me if I was happy and I had to admit to him (and openly to myself) that I was not.
My old friend is married, wants a divorce (he says) but won’t get one until he doesn’t have to worry about taking care of his mother. I tried to break up with my boyfriend, but it was very difficult and he didn’t understand (or didn’t want to understand) what I was saying. It was killing me to hurt him like that, but it was killing me inside to stay. I have since met my old friend a couple of times and we have had sex although he has told me he is not emotionally available now. He has encouraged me to do what I need to make myself happy (either stay and fix the relationship with my boyfriend or break it off and find someone new) and to not wait for him to be free – he has made no promises.
Somehow I can’t seem to make the final break with my boyfriend (I say it’s because of the dogs we share, but I’m sure it’s more than that) but when I think of spending my future with him, I just feel defeated and want to cry. I have met some single men who are interesting in some classes I have taken, but most of them are younger than I. I’m not even sure what my question is… but I’m so torn.
Taking responsibility for your own emotional well-being is not always an easy thing to do. The thing of it is, eventually you are going to have to.
The relationship you share with your boyfriend is stagnant, but not necessarily sour. It’s safe, familiar, and comfortable. You know what you have, you know what to expect, but because you don’t have any “tangible and acceptable” reason to break it off completely, you are choosing to just let it ride. It is true that everything changes with time, but relationships rarely miraculously revive themselves. If this man were a cheater, a screw up, or abusive – you’d have your way out with a clear conscience. But, because he is a nice guy that is fairly compatible, you are having problems with the fact that the relationship is stagnant and your feelings for him have changed. You care about him, but aren’t overwhelmed by love and excitement. The stability of your history with him has become your safety net. If you break it off completely, then you will be alone and on your own, and that is somewhat intimidating to you.
Your friend has given you some very valuable advice. Do what you need to do to make yourself happy. This man is not going to be available emotionally or otherwise for quite some time. He isn’t the answer. A friend with occasional benefits is about all he will ever be, should you decide to continue to meet with him.
You want the excitement and joy of new love in your life. You want the heat and passion, living in anticipation of the next time you will be held tightly in your lover’s arms. I really want you to think about what I’m going to say next: New love becomes comfortable and familiar with the passing of time.
If you truly feel defeated by the thought of remaining in your current relationship, then you need to find the strength to bring it to a final end. If you aren’t ready to make that step, then you should share with your boyfriend how you are feeling, and put some effort into resurrecting the relationship. Counseling would be beneficial, and you may want to shake up the routine here as well. There is a very real chance that you could find happiness with him and this relationship once again, but you have to want it. This process would require a great deal more honesty than you are accustomed to sharing.
There is no easy way out of this dilemma for you. You have to do some soul-searching, figure out what you really want and what is lacking – in yourself as well as your love life. There is no Prince who is going to swoop you up and carry you away. Your boyfriend doesn’t look as if he is going to magically disappear in the near future either. What you have is much harder than that – the need to make some decisions and enough strength to see them through.