Hey there, Papabear,
There's something quite complex that's been on my mind lately. Something I feel like I've worked over as much as I can, possibly even obsessed over, until I've defined every aspect of it. But it still sticks with me emotionally and I can't help but ask myself if there's something I'm missing. After reading many of your letters, I decided it might be worthwhile to see if you have any insight. So... here goes.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost five years now, and living together for almost three. In a couple months, more or less at our anniversary, we will be breaking up.
Maybe I should back up a bit.
We first started dating when he moved into the area for college. Now he's on the verge of graduation, but I still have a year and a half to go. So he'll be moving away while I'm stuck here. But that's only a convenient timing for the break-up, not why it's happening in the first place. You see, he has never dated anyone else besides me. As such, he's not comfortable settling down because he believes he'll always wonder what he's missed out on, other experiences and the like. Part of that is because he's bisexual and has never been with the opposite gender, part is just that he never had much of an experimental adolescence in that regard.
Now, this is something I've known was coming for quite some time. We talked about it long ago, back when we'd first started dating. I suppose I hadn't thought too much of it at the time, probably because the few relationships I'd been in before this either ended horribly, never really began, or lasted only a handful of months anyways. As our relationship developed and we stayed together, the topic of an eventual breakup was broached only extremal rarely. We either skirted around it or I tried rather successfully to avoid thinking about it. But with that artificial deadline approaching fast, it's getting pretty hard to avoid dealing with it anymore.
The thing is, I understand his reasoning, even if I don't agree with the decision it leads to. So my options as I see them are to either let him go, losing him as a partner but maintaining the friendship, or to fight for our relationship. I don't feel like I can fight because, if I do, I'll either convince him to stay and feel guilty for what I've denied him or alienate him in the process and lose him all together. I can't simply be selfish here, as I feel his happiness is more important to me than my own. With all that in mind, I came to the conclusion that I should just accept the situation, enjoy the time we have left together as much as possible, and part on good terms. We do plan on staying very much a part of each others lives, so I wouldn't be losing him in that sense. We just wouldn't be together anymore.
The problem for me comes with actually accepting the situation. Every so often, some little thing in conversation or interaction reminds me that he'll be gone soon, and that snags and sticks in my mind such that it gets me down and I have trouble thinking about anything else for a while. When that happens I tend to close off socially, not wanting to burden others with my problems or rant at them inadvertently. These funks also tend to alter the way I think about things slightly. For instance, he'll be talking to a friend he's recently made online that he is becoming quite close to and I'll find myself thinking of it as him shopping for my replacement. Or during otherwise inconsequential disagreements or arguments I'll find thoughts like "At least I only have to deal with this for X more months," slipping into my mind. I immediately feel terrible for thinking that way, of course, only making my mood worse. At least I get over it all fairly quickly, in a day or two at most, but it seems to be happening more often the closer the split gets. Kinda sours the idea of making the most of the time we have left.
I think that pretty much covers the beast of a situation. So I guess my question is... what are your thoughts?
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This is a pretty sad situation for you, and I'm sorry to hear it. Let me tell you what Papabear would do if he were in your situation. I would tell my mate that his decision has already effectively ended the relationship and that we are no longer mates. Furthermore, I would begin looking for a new mate myself, letting him know quite clearly that I am not going to wait around for him to return. I am not a safety net in case things go badly as he sows his wild oats and decides he wants to be mates again. We could maybe still be friends, but the matehood is over.
While I, like you, understand he wants to live his life and would wish him well, I would not be sitting around pretending that he is still my mate when he has already signed out mentally. What would this mean in the short term? Well, it would mean the relationship is downgraded to roommate status: no sex, first of all, and any shared rooming expenses must be divided fairly. Meantime, I'm off to find a date with someone who actually wants to be with me. As I've said to other letter writers: don't be a tool.
I sense you already know all this, Theta, and are just looking for someone to confirm that you are right. You deserve better that this. Time to wave a paw "bye-bye" to this guy.
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