Q: I started dating this guy when were in our early 20s. We fell in love quickly and moved in together for three years, and then lived separately for various reasons for another five years. We moved back in together again five years ago, and one of the conditions of my moving back in with him was that we would get engaged and married shortly thereafter. However, my boyfriend kept putting it off, saying he was scared, wasn't ready, etc. I gave him an ultimatum and we tried couples counseling but nothing worked. I gained a lot of weight and became depressed, and our sex life became virtually non-existent. Then, about two years ago, I started losing weight and began to feel better about myself. Our relationship improved greatly and I started realizing that I didn't need a wedding ring to prove that he loved me. I started to feel like I was falling in love with him again and we felt much closer. Our sex life started to come back slowly.
Fast forward to last summer. My boyfriend confessed that he had had an affair with a co-worker during the whole previous year. He claimed that it was purely sexual and he never had any feelings for her, and that the reason for his confession was that he was ready to get married to me and did not want to have any secrets from me. Needless to say, I was completely devastated. I had had no idea that anything was going on. I told him I couldn't be with him as boyfriend/girlfriend at the moment, and that if we were ever going to reconcile we would have to do couples counseling, which he agreed to, and we started doing and continue doing. We also kept living together in the same apartment, as our lease does not end until later this year. We do not sleep together.
Shortly after my boyfriend's confession, out of anger and hurt and wanting revenge, I contacted a guy with whom I have had chemistry for years and almost hooked up with when I was younger. We agreed that our relationship would be just sexual or friends with benefits while I figured out what do to with my boyfriend and since he was not looking for anything serious. This guy and I are the same age, and he's had several bad relationships that have made him very guarded and cynical. At first I would see him a few times a week, just for sex, but over time (it's now been almost 9 months), our relationship deepened to where I see him five or six days out of the week. We go out to dinner, hang out, talk on the phone, etc. He goes on dates with other women but none have progressed to anything serious, mainly because he continues to maintain that he doesn't want to be in a relationship with anyone. He's said to me recently that he isn't interested in dating anyone, including me, because he is afraid of getting involved with someone and getting hurt. Yet all his actions indicate to me that he likes me and at this point. I feel like we are basically dating without making it official.
I decided to move out of my apartment with my boyfriend for a month to try to get some space to figure out my next move, and I've sublet an apartment and been there for a few weeks now. However, I feel no closer to making a decision than I did before I moved in.
On one hand, I could go back to my boyfriend, who loves me and is ready to get married now. I do love him and the couples counseling has really helped us with a lot of issues that we had. But I don't know if I will ever trust him again, and I'm still so hurt and angry.
On the other hand, I could end things with my boyfriend and see where things go with the other guy. But while it's clear that this guy likes me and has feelings for me, he continues to say that he doesn't want anything serious with anybody. I do think that part of that, at least in regards to me, is that he believes that I will get back together with my boyfriend and therefore he doesn't want to risk exposing his feelings to me only to lose me.
I feel that if I were 25 years old, this would be an easier decision. I would probably end things with my boyfriend and move out, and see what happens with the other guy, with the possibility of getting back with my boyfriend if it was meant to be or just being single and finding someone new. But I'm going to be in my late 30s, and if I ever want to have kids, that window is quickly closing. I feel like I'm on the edge of a cliff with my whole future in the balance -- on one side marriage and kids and hopefully happily ever after, on the other uncertainty and anxiety with the possibility of never having kids. I am completely frozen by indecision and fear and have no idea what to do next.
– Utterly Confused, Worcester
A: It's over with the boyfriend, UC. You don't want him. If you did, this would be a no-brainer. You fell out of love with him after many long and turbulent years. You moved out. The end.
As for the new guy, he's your age (almost in his late 30s), and he's telling you that he doesn't want to be in a relationship. Please listen. Sure, he's actions might imply that he wants more, but I'm not convinced.
My advice is to free your ex and then tell this new-ish guy that you can't be in a casual relationship that takes up all of your time. Admit that you're dropping your boyfriend because you want to be able to pursue someone else. My guess is that the new guy will remain negative and noncommittal, in which case it'll time to do what you'd do at 25 -- start over.
If I thought that happily ever after was an option with the ex, I'd advise you to stay with him -- but I don't. Despite all that great, effective couples therapy, you're still considering other options.
And If I thought that the new guy would eventually give in to happily ever after, I'd tell you to hang on no matter what. But I don't trust him.
Happily ever after seems out of your reach, or at the very least, outside of your sublet. Start by being honest with everyone about what you really want, and then accept what you've already chosen to become -- a single person starting over.
Readers? Is the ex still an option? Is the new guy just protecting himself because of her history with the ex? Does she have to be single right now? Should she be factoring kids and marriage into her decision about who to keep around? Constructive advice please.
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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.