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Can't stop obsessing about it

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  August 9, 2010 08:06 AM

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Q: Oh, Meredith. I am spinning myself in circles

I am a big over-thinker who has dated a wonderful and infuriating guy for two years. I'm 23, working in Midwestern city. He's 21 and still in college, where we met. We have both been in long-term relationships before. Perhaps our age renders all this moot. But please bear with me and pretend I'm an adult.

Somehow, we have kept the long-distance going for a year with visits during the school year and Skype during summers when he leaves the country. We have some big problems though. I feel like I have spent way too much of our relationship freaking out about it, threatening to break up with him and backpedaling.

I'm at a fork in the road. I'm likely going to get laid off, which could be an opportunity to start again. I need to either finally break it off and deal with the fallout -- however much I may regret it -- or, I need to learn to love him without the constant vacillations. Please help me find a fresh way to look at this! Here's the long-winded deal.

I can think of so many logical reasons why we should not be together: We live two hours from each other (by plane); we are both incredibly young; he cheated on me six months in and it was so devastating that we are still rebuilding trust; the grilled cheese is good now but was troubled when we were in the same city, and I wanted more than him.

More worrisome: He's a very wealthy ex-pat, the son of a banker, and I'm a middle class American public school kid, the daughter of ex-hippies. He aspires to be an investment banker or the founder of a company. I want to dedicate my life to shedding light on injustice. He wants to maintain the lifestyle he grew up with. I think it's way too opulent. He wants to send his future kids to boarding school. I don't know if I could deal with that.

We do have some warm and fuzzy things going on. We laugh together. We love each other. We support each other. We both want to spend our careers traveling the world. We always have things to talk about, even if we fight about politics. I believe that despite his past actions (the infidelity), he is taking his mistakes seriously and learning from them. We've talked about every issue I've raised here. He wants me in his life and is willing to figure the rest out as we go along.

I know this sounds nuts, but when he graduates, if we are still together, we will consider moving abroad together wherever he finds a job. (He has to leave the country. My profession can go anywhere.)

He's getting back to the U.S. soon. I suspect that after a weekend of cuddling and nice dinners and grilled cheeses I will forget all of this and recommit to staying with him. Until things unravel and the cycle repeats...this is where I need help.

Do opposites attract or is that crap? Is love all I need? Or am I setting myself up for a big disappointment down the road, when moving on will be harder?

Basically, am I insane? Or should I listen to myself?

– Can't afford therapy. Probs need it.

A: Yes, opposites can attract, and yes, they can stay together for the long haul, CATPNI. Your problem isn't the wealthy ex-pat vs. kid-of-ex-hippies thing -- it's the age/distance. He shouldn't have cheated, but he's not a criminal for being 21 and all over the place.

My advice is to cuddle, play, enjoy, visit, and maybe even move abroad -- but without all of the serious over-analysis. You're at a great place in life to run off with this guy without worrying about the consequences. Stop obsessing about what he did when your relationship was new. And stop thinking about his opulent lifestyle and boarding school for your unborn children. You can really only plan for the next year right now.

If you take the big rules and anxiety out of the relationship, you might actually have a shot with this guy. I'm not saying, "If you love someone set them free, ignore all flaws, and forgive all cheats." What I am saying is, "If you love someone, keep reasonable expectations." Repeat these sentences: "I hope that this cool-yet-infuriating guy and I wind up following through on our plans to see the world. And if we break-up on a flight over Nepal or before we even get on the plane, I’ll see the world myself. And it will be awesome." Spend the time before he graduates doing whatever you want to do. Move to a different city, get a job, don't get a job, travel -- go with your temporary gut.

You're not insane. It's just that when you're 21 and 23 and living in different cities, most promises wind up being empty. All you really know is that for now, you want to keep seeing him. Get off the hamster wheel of crazy. It only goes in circles.

Readers? Should they break up while things are so ... temporary? Is this about opposites attracting? Is the boarding school/lifestyle stuff relevant right now? And -- should she be getting on a plane with this guy? Discuss.

– Meredith

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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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