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Heavy Meddle: I Can’t Break Things Off With My Ex

A woman struggles with whether to cut ties or settle for Mr. Right Now. (Joshua Ness/Unsplash)MoreCloseclosemore
A woman struggles with whether to cut ties or settle for Mr. Right Now. (Joshua Ness/Unsplash)

Welcome Meddleheads, to the advice column where your crazy meets my crazy! We need letters, so please send me one. You can use this form, or send them via email. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,
Steve

...

Dear Steve,

For two years I dated a man I met online. I immediately felt he was the one. Our first date was hours of talking and walking and laughing and our politics aligned which is super important to me. He also didn't want children, which is key. After a few months, he told me he didn't think we were right for each other but didn't see any need to break up. I was heartbroken, but I was also having fun, so we kept going.

I should mention he had never dated before (we were in our 30s), and he has what I strongly suspect is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Although he is kind and compassionate, this did make being with him hard. When he moved to a new city for his job, we had been together for two years. I offered to move with him, but he said no.

I should mention he had never dated before (we were in our 30s), and he has what I strongly suspect is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

I have been to visit him multiple times since we "broke up," and we are intimate and affectionate when together. We see each other every few months, and that is enough sex for me. I have dated other people since then, but aside from one guy who didn't like my body type (I am overweight and have not been having much success at losing weight), I have met no one else I wanted to date. It is also hard because I travel most of the week for work, and that's not really conducive to a relationship.

I love my job and don't want to stop traveling. My ex has not even tried to date since he moved because he is “busy.” He is always excited to have me visit him. I don't know whether to put more effort into online dating or just keep going with my current thing with my ex. He won't visit me at all because he hates traveling.

I feel like if he was willing to travel (not just to see me but with me on vacations), I'd be completely happy with our relationship. I have a passion for travel, and he just doesn't. I appreciate any advice you can offer.

Signed,
Can’t Move On

...

Dear Can't Move On,

I’m struck by this sentence: "I was heartbroken, but I was also having fun, so we kept going." It’s easy to spot the contradiction here. But I think most people find themselves at the same intersection sooner or later, the one where they have to decide: Is the fun worth the heartbreak?

There are plenty of huge red flags here. This guy doesn’t feel you're “right” for each other, which — to translate from cadspeak — means “you’re not right for me.” You offered to move with him (which I assume means you wanted to move with him), and he refused. He refuses to travel to see you, or with you. The relationship sounds like it’s on his terms.

On the other hand, he’s excited to see you when you visit. You’re affectionate and intimate. The sex is enough for you. And because you travel a lot for work, the nature of this arrangement has a certain appeal.

... I think most people find themselves at the same intersection sooner or later, the one where they have to decide: Is the fun worth the heartbreak?

The basic questions here are: what do you want in a romantic partnership? What do you think you deserve? Are you OK with being someone’s part-time, long-distance lover? Are you OK with the compromises you have to make to spend time with this guy?

It’s pretty easy for folks to look at your situation from afar and say, get the heck out of this toxic setup! Better to be alone than to withstand such treatment! Work on your self-esteem and you’ll find a love that’s more nourishing!

But you’re the one living this life. If you’re happy with the way things are right now — minus his travel ban — then enjoy what the relationship offers. On the other hand, it may be that your letter is one sign that you’re beginning to question whether the good stuff you get is worth the compromises you have to make.

For what it’s worth, in my own life, I’ve tended to stay in my romantic relationships too long, for fear of losing the love and security that even unhealthy bonds can supply. My friends and family could generally see that I was compromising my own happiness (and usually my partner’s). But they couldn’t convince me to move on. I had to come to that on my own.

What’s most important is that you listen to yourself.

Onward, together,
Steve

Author's note: I’m almost certain that most readers are going to view me as being a milquetoast here. So be it. If you feel I’ve mucked it up, you know what to do: post your feedback, and/or counsel, in the comments section below. Send along a letter to Heavy Meddle, if you haven’t. You can use this form, or send your questions via email. — S.A.

Heavy Meddle with Steve Almond is Cognoscenti's advice column. Read more here.

Steve Almond Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Steve Almond is a writer. His new book, "Bad Stories: Toward A Unified Theory of How It All Came Apart," will be out in March 2018. He hosts the Dear Sugars podcast with Cheryl Strayed.

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