My Long-Distance Boyfriend Has Met Someone Else but I Still Love Him. Help!

I’ve found myself in a difficult relationship position and I would like your advice. I met my boyfriend 18 months ago. He’s 37, I’m 33. He was a little reluctant at first as I have a child with someone else. However, we started dating and everything worked. He was keen. He locked me down in a relationship pretty quickly. There was no vagueness or uncertainty about what he wanted. Me. And I felt the same. We had a good, solid real relationship.

A year in he received a job offer that meant him returning back to his home country, 12,000 miles away. He decided to take it. I was fully supportive and the plan was for me to join him once he’d gotten everything settled on his end and I sorted everything out my end. I was worried the relationship might fizzle out going such long distance, but it didn’t. He came to visit as often as he could (at great expense to him) and we met half way as often as we could. He rang and texted all the time and still seemed as keen as ever. He got a house big enough for me, him and my son…whilst I’ve been sorting out all the other practicalities e.g. my visa, job, nursery place for my son. 

Then a month ago, he confessed out of the blue to meeting someone else and is now unsure. At first, I assumed he was just confessing to a one night stand, which given our long distance status I was prepared to forgive, but further talking has revealed it’s more than that. He’s seen this girl a few times and is now totally unsure what he wants. He’s been totally open and honest about it. He loves me and wants to be with me but at times feels the responsibility of me moving so far away from all my friends and family, with my son, for him, is a lot of pressure. This girl is a far simpler option. She lives nearby, she’s not uprooting her life for him so if it all went wrong, it would be far simpler.

I’m torn. Part of me gets his thinking and I’m glad he’s taking this decision seriously. But part of me thinks it may just all be bullshit. He’s basically fucking us both around because he can. Leading us both on…her for the physical side and actual company, me for the emotional support that comes with a long-term girlfriend. I know about her but she doesn’t know about me. His family only knows about me. His friends know about both of us.

I love this man and want it to work but I’m struggling to decide if his intentions are genuine or not. What do you think? Do you think this is a genuine dilemma and being understanding for a while is the best way forward or am I being played?

Sarah

You’re not being played, Sarah. You’re being naïve.

I’ve written about the perils of long-distance relationships before.

Quite a few times, actually.

You don’t have to read all 7 of those links to get the basic premise:

Online dating is tricky.
Dating is tricky.
Relationships are tricky.
Long-distance relationships are the trickiest.

  • You don’t see each other in person often.
  • Your communication is restricted to Skype or FaceTime.
  • Your time together is like a vacation – short bursts of intense pleasure, fun and lovemaking.
  • Your intimacy is a bit of an illusion – everything can seem great, but that’s only because you’re not spending 24/7/365 together.

And even if EVERYTHING I wrote above is untrue about YOUR long-distance relationship, still, one of you is going to have to uproot his/her life to make a long-distance relationship work.

All that matters is that your boyfriend has a job in his home country, 12,000 miles away.

Even though my sister married her LDR, I NEVER recommend my clients engage in one.

Too risky. Too illusory. Too many built-in problems.

I don’t judge you, Sarah. We’ve all been in your shoes. But it’s time to grow out of them.

Is it possible that your boyfriend is trying to have his cake and eat it, too?

In the realm that we all pursue pleasure and avoid pain, it may be.

But the truth is that it doesn’t matter.

Really.

It doesn’t matter if he’s lying. It doesn’t matter if he’s telling the truth.

All that matters is that your boyfriend has a job in his home country, 12,000 miles away.

As such, he makes for a poor long-term prospect, no matter how much you love each other.

This girl didn’t break you up.

Find another man locally who possesses the same qualities he has.

She’s just the first person to call his attention to the fact that a romantic relationship from halfway around the world is not really a romantic relationship, but rather, a pen pal.

Let your boyfriend go.

Find another man locally who possesses the same qualities he has.

It’ll be hard in the short-run as all break-ups are, but you’ll both be very glad when you’ve found new partners who can cuddle with you seven nights a week, reading this blog aloud in bed.

(I’m assuming that’s what most couples do.)

Good luck.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Stacy

    I kinda agree with Evan but for different reasons. The long distance is not the main issue in my opinion, because you were actively planning to move (plus, you see each other often).  My issue would be that his heart was so easily swayed in the first place. And while he was ‘honest’ about it, I would never be with a man who can’t decide between me and another woman – EVER.  If I am not the first and only choice, I would gracefully bow out. And if a man that is so in love with me (supposedly) can allow for someone to swipe in and confuse him (which means he had to pursue this in the first place), then he would not be worth the effort. And you just waiting for him to ‘like you more’ is simply bringing down your worth in his eyes.

    1. 1.1
      GoWiththeFlow

      Stacy,

      Every thing you and Evan said.  Also, in the face of this HUGE red flag, in the form of another woman (!!!), Sarah is twisting herself into knots making excuses for him.  He “. . . feels the responsibility of me moving so far away from all my friends and family, with my son, for him, is a lot of pressure. This girl is a far simpler option. She lives nearby, she’s not uprooting her life for him so if it all went wrong, it would be far simpler.”

      Oh please!  If this is what he does to someone he loves, I wouldn’t want to see what he behaves like towards someone he dislikes.  A long distance relationship may fall apart due to all of the reasons Evan listed.  In this situation, in addition to the logistical difficulties, boyfriend made a deliberate decision to start pursuing another woman.  To be with this man, Sarah would be uprooting herself and her child to move to another country.  He’s not worth that risk.

      1. 1.1.1
        Stacy

        I’m feeling your flow.

  2. 2
    S.

    The thing is it’s not always so easy to meet someone new.  Yeah, Evan will say use his products and you’ll find someone.  Maybe, maybe not.  It may take some time.  I remember that sweet woman Maria had one-on-one coaching with Evan. She posted here about it every month. She hadn’t found a person in six months. It happens. I hope she has found someone now, though. She deserves it.

    Back to OP, if he’s unsure and met someone else, that’s it. I don’t think he intentionally set out to hurt you. He’s just not ready for the relationship with you that you are ready for.  Don’t uproot yourself and your son for him.  The only odd thing is you were a non-long distance couple for a year.  It was real.  But it’s over now because he’s simply not investing to the depth that you are willing to.

    Maybe you won’t find someone else with his qualities right away.  That is okay.  (That does hurt, but you will be okay.)  It will take time to heal. Take that time and focus all this energy you had for the move on you.  And your kid. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.  And then once you are healed, hopefully you’ll find someone willing to invest in you the same way you want to invest in him.  You deserve that. 🙂

    1. 2.1
      Hayley

      I agree, S. People often throw out the line “Break up with him and find someone who treats you better” like finding that someone is as easy as going down to the grocery store to buy more milk because the bottle you’ve got at home has gone off. The reality, for me at least, is that it simply isn’t easy, and it’s the biggest factor that has kept me in bad relationships well past their use-by date.

       

      1. 2.1.1
        S.

        Maybe people should say, “Break up with him and you’ll find a better version of yourself.” That’s something you have control over.  That you can do on your own.  Because that’s what you really get back after a bad relationship. Your sense of self.  Which for me isn’t really tied to whether I get another man right away.

        It is hard when you chose this guy and were prepared to ride or die with him.  Really fucking hurts to find he was no way thinking the same of you.  But you gotta ride or die with yourself first.  With your children.  Those who are really with you for the long haul.  Then maybe that energy–that you are in love with yourself first–will bring the right guy along.

        It’s a lotta work. But it’s the best thing one can do for oneself.  Know you can be really and truly happy by yourself.

        And Sarah, if we are all wrong and he does drop that girl for you.  Still be careful. Still don’t uproot. Hell no, after this he should move himself back to you and want to prove himself to you. That’s right.  You deserve a man willing to do what it takes to make you feel completely safe. If he can’t, he’s not the one for you.

      2. 2.1.2
        Stacy

        No, it’s not easy to find someone else but you should prefer your own company to a bad situation. Even you said that basically your fear of finding someone else is why you’ve stayed in bad relationships.  If the OP takes ‘forever’ to find someone else, it beats the alternative of being just an option for a man.

        1. Hayley

          I find sweeping statements about how someone “should” feel to be about as useful as looking at the sky and telling it that it “shouldn’t” be raining, except it’s judgmental, and comes across as holier-than-thou too. People are allowed not to want to feel lonely, and it really bothers me that people insinuate pain that break-ups cause is only short-term, because when I’ve been single for a long time, sure the pain of the actual break-up had faded, but it was the continuing loneliness that cause the most pain, and it was definitely long-term pain. And I don’t think that’s abnormal or bad.

          Humans are social creatures. Yes I have great friends and a great job, but the reality is that a long-term relationship is what allows me to have the type of close personal interrelationship that I want, and I don’t think at all that that’s a flaw I should try to overcome.

        2. Clare

          Hayley,

           

          I absolutely feel you, and your desire not to want to be alone is every bit as normal as it is human, and dare I say it, probably even makes you a warmer creature.

           

          S’s argument aside – and I agree, it is easy enough to tell someone they should prefer being alone to being in a bad relationship – the problem with staying with someone you know deep down you shouldn’t be with because of a fear of loneliness, or any other reason, is that it precludes you meeting the person who is right for you and can make you happy and treat you properly. While being lonely is one of the most painful things a person can experience, it does at the very least carry with it the freedom and the possibility to go out there and find someone who can provide you with a fulfilling relationship. And I promise you, those people are out there.

        3. Karl R

          Hayley said:

          “when I’ve been single for a long time, sure the pain of the actual break-up had faded, but it was the continuing loneliness that cause the most pain, and it was definitely long-term pain. And I don’t think that’s abnormal or bad.”

          There are a lot of people who find the loneliness of being single painful. There are also a lot of people who don’t. I don’t know which group is more numerous, nor do I think it’s useful to speculate about it.

           

          I am one of the people who was happily single. In my experience, that trait made it much easier for me to avoid unhappy relationships. If I was in a relationship that sucked, it was easy for me to initiate the breakup, because I knew that I’d be happier single than in a lousy relationship. My relationships actually have to be good in order for them to beat the baseline of being alone.

          If a relationship wasn’t good, it quickly ended, and good riddance. If a good relationship ended, it stung a bit, but I was fine with being single until I could find another good relationship.

          I realize that my experience was very different than yours. As the person who lived through my experience, I found it highly beneficial to be happily single. It helped me end up happily married.

           

          While I can’t really imagine what it’s like to be in your shoes, I realized long ago that it’s much harder for people like you, who find being single both painful and lonely. I strongly suspect that there’s a constant temptation to stay in relationships that you know are lousy, just because it’s less painful than being single. Similarly, I expect that there’s also a temptation to get into relationships, even when you know they won’t be particularly good, just because it’s better than being single.

          It seems that the likely consequence would be people spending longer in lousy relationships, and spending less time in good or great relationships.

           

          Hayley said:

          “I find sweeping statements about how someone ‘should’ feel to be about as useful as looking at the sky and telling it that it ‘shouldn’t’ be raining,”

          That makes sense. I can see how that’s a rather useless statement.

          It seems like your situation is analogous to someone who feels chronic pain. Obviously, they would prefer not to feel the chronic pain, but they may not have much choice in the matter.

           

          Hayley said:

          “Yes I have great friends and a great job, but the reality is that a long-term relationship is what allows me to have the type of close personal interrelationship that I want, and I don’t think at all that that’s a flaw I should try to overcome.”

          I realize that I’m heading off on a tangent here, but you have a perspective that’s radically different than mine. You also seem to be very good at articulating your perspective in a way that I can understand.

           

          One of my uncles was pretty much incapable of getting into any kind of romantic relationship from his twenties onward. (He passed away years ago, but there are certainly others like him in this world.) He had mental health issues, and they never managed to find a medication that worked for him long-term.

          Obviously, both you and I would encourage someone like him to keep working on his underlying mental health issues.  However, as to his inability to get a relationship, I would have simply encouraged him to become as happy as he could be without a romantic relationship. (If he was capable of being happily single, like me, it would be sensible advice.)

          But what if he wasn’t capable of being happily single (like you), what would be the best advice to give someone like him?

          Do you have any insight you can offer specific to this type of situation?

        4. Hayley

          Clare – thank you so much! I wrote that comment about 5 hours before I broke up with my (now) ex boyfriend. I absolutely agree with you about opening yourself up to a new relationship (it’s ultimately why I made the decision), but our society is one that definitely discourages us from letting ourselves openly acknowledge the hurt we feel when a relationship we were deeply invested in doesn’t work out, and even more so the loneliness all people experience, but especially single ones.

          Karl R  – I definitely agree with everything you said! I’m not sure I’m the best person to give advice on advice to give to someone in a situation like your uncle’s. What I can do is tell you what’s worked best for me recently.

          6 months ago I broke up with my live-in boyfriend because he’d slowly become controlling and manipulative. In the following months I worked really hard to let myself openly prioritise love. I stopped feeling ashamed that being single wasn’t what I wanted. I’d love to be as happily single as you were, but it’s just not realistic for me. I’ve had therapists who’ve tried to make me recite mantras like “I’m all that I will ever need” over and over again, which basically just felt like trying to brainwash myself into a different person.

          This might sound lame, but I learnt to celebrate my capacity for love. When I wrote an email to a friend complaining about feeling stupid for being so forgiving of my ex for so long, she wrote back saying “Never feel stupid for being a loving, caring person – it’s your strength and power!”. In the past I would’ve rolled my eyes at that, but I printed it out and put it in my bedside table draw, and look at it most days. I bought myself a ring with a pretty, dainty little broken heart and wear it every day because, to me at least, it symbolises how powerful and beautiful my vulnerability is. These were just little things, but they were incredibly helpful in making me feel more at ease with myself. It’s been far, far more productive than hating myself for being single and hating myself for being ashamed of being single.

          Of course, the road has been hard. I broke up with the guy I referred to in my response to Clare’s comment because I finally accepted that, despite his words saying otherwise, he’d been stringing me along about wanting a serious relationship and I couldn’t keep ignoring it any longer. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be single for, or even if I’ll be single forever, and that obviously scares me.

          I am by no means fully at peace with myself or my situation, but I feel much, much more comfortable in my skin than I did 6 months ago. That’s a really important thing. (Sorry for the novel!)

           

  3. 3
    Skaramouche

    *hug* Sarah.  I know this is not what you want to hear but I think he has moved on.  He just wants you to be the one that ends this relationship; he wants you to be the “bad guy”.  That way he doesn’t have to be the one who moved away and broke your heart; he can move on with a clean conscience.  “I told her the truth and she chose to break up”.

    Honesty is a trait that I value HIGHLY.  However, there’s honesty and then there’s what he’s doing.  Even if he’s telling the truth, the only thing he’s accomplishing is shifting the burden to your shoulders.  He isn’t telling you that even though he cares about you, he’s fallen for someone else and your time together is over.  He isn’t telling you that he met someone but he made a mistake because he loves you and can’t wait for you to move so you can be with him.  Instead, he’s telling you “the truth” while he eats his cake and has it too.  He wants you to be his mommy and to fix the situation one way or another.  Why would he make a decision when he has you to make it for him?

    Maybe he’s re-thinking the whole long-term thing and just needs time.  It happens to the best of us.  If so, he should be ruminating on this in a solo, mature way from the second he realised that another woman could make him re-think his commitment to you.  The fact that he has “seen this girl a few times” tells me he’s not a keeper.  What does “seen her a few times” mean anyway?  Is he running into her in groups of friends?  Is he seeing her one-on-one?  Is he sleeping with her?

    Men with girlfriends don’t “see other girls a few times”, no matter how far away their girlfriends are.  If they do, they should have the decency to break up with said girlfriends, not to hide behind excuses of “being confused”.

    1. 3.1
      Emily, the original

      Skaramouche,

      That way he doesn’t have to be the one who moved away and broke your heart; he can move on with a clean conscience.  “I told her the truth and she chose to break up”.

      I agree with what you wrote. This theme is similar to the letter last week from the woman whose boyfriend was acting strangely and wouldn’t tell her why. She snooped and found out he’d been texting another woman. It seemed as if he was looking for a way out but wouldn’t be upfront about it. I don’t see what difference it makes who ends it. The long-distance boyfriend is still breaking her heart, regardless of whether she’s the one to break it off.

  4. 4
    JK

    Someone once told me “when a man says he’s just not that into you, and to boot behaves in such a manner, believe him and stop wasting your time” — unfortunately I heard that after 3 years with the wrong guy. I feel for you, I really do. It will get better after the heartache, which takes time. It’s good, though, that you wrote to Evan who will tell you straight up.

  5. 5
    Clare

    Sarah,

     

    For me, actually, the worrying part was the beginning of your letter:

     

    He was a little reluctant at first as I have a child with someone else.”

     

    I don’t know how keen I’d be to get into a relationship with someone who was “reluctant at first.” To me, this is a the kind of ambivalence which might rear its head again later on down the line. I actually think there’s some truth to what you say when you say that he “feels the responsibility” of you uprooting your life and the life of your son. He didn’t want that responsibility to begin with. Not really.

     

    I know you say he locked you down quickly and that he loves you, but to me it sounds like you have a man who was never really all in. Let’s look at the facts: He was reluctant to get involved with you, but did anyway. When there was a chance for a job which was 12 000 miles away from you, he took it. He moved without you, leaving you to sort out your practicalities on your own. And then, when the long distance relationship started to feel a little bit inconvenient for him, he started spending time with another woman (and very likely getting physical with her, from what you’ve said) and saying he was unsure. This is not a guy who is thinking about you, he’s thinking about himself. I’ve seen this kind of behaviour, and it always means they don’t really want to be in the relationship very badly.

     

    Men who really want a committed relationship with you don’t behave this way.

    1. 5.1
      Marika

      Clare

      It’s been eye opening for me reading this blog and finding out how men (or some men) think. Multiple men on this site, even quite reasonable and even handed type commenters have mentioned reservations that they have around women with children. I think they are concerned about having to finance a child, look after a child who they feel no bond with, have to have the child’s father in their lives potentially forever etc etc. Also, being with a woman with a child usually/often means the child will be living in the primary residence as the mother is the one most likely to get custody. I wouldn’t read too much into this man’s concern about the LW having a child. It seems to be a fairly common for men to be not that happy about the idea of being a step-father. He was perhaps more honest about this than he needed to be, but maybe he was just being open with her about his fears.

      I personally have no issues with a man having children, and was a step-mother in my marriage, but I also know women for whom the man having children is a deal breaker.

    2. 5.2
      Nissa

      Oh, Clare. The can of worms is open now, lol. In regard to your statement: I don’t know how keen I’d be to get into a relationship with someone who was “reluctant at first.” To me, this is a the kind of ambivalence which might rear its head again later on down the line.

      This is exactly why women don’t in general ask men out of dates – call, plan, pursue. Because this lack of pursuit, of drive, of motivation is not a good trait in a relationship. And yes, a lack of response, appreciation and encouragement on the part of the woman is also not a positive relationship trait. Ambivalence on either side is not good. To me, anyone that displays a lack of self knowledge to that degree is not a good relationship prospect.

      Now, I don’t know how much encouragement men get, but as a woman, I hear a lot of remarks like: don’t be so picky, maybe your standards are too high, take what you can get, all men are like that, at least he has a job, give him a chance, tell him how you feel and maybe he will change. I would be very surprised to hear that men are getting the equivalent remarks about women (outside of, I’d hit that). I think it’s a shame that more people aren’t recognizing, as you have, that ambivalence is not usually about the partner in question. It’s about a lack of self knowledge that extends into that person’s dating habits.

      1. 5.2.1
        Jeremy

        “I would be very surprised to hear that men are getting the equivalent remarks about women”

        Every single bit of relationship/marital advice that men receive tells them to subsume their desires for those of their wife.  Every. Single. Bit.  I was just at a wedding where the advice from every single person, from the rabbi who was officiating to the parents, siblings and guests of honour was directed at tempering man’s self-directed interest to better mesh with a woman.

         

        The problem is not that men aren’t hearing this message, it’s that many are not internalizing it.  Especially the men women find most attractive because of their prioritization of their own desires.  Or, as Emily puts it, being their own man.

         

        How can a woman choose a man based on how much of his own man he is, and then complain that he doesn’t listen well enough?

        1. Marika

          Jeremy 

          You’ve said things like this a few times: Every single bit of relationship/marital advice that men receive tells them to subsume their desires for those of their wife.  Every. Single. Bit.  

          I’m wondering if that’s in the Jewish community? My brother, father, grandfather etc etc weren’t given that advice. It was more like, to the women: let the man think he’s right, deal with his stuff and complain to your girlfriends. I don’t follow that advice or think it’s helpful, but I strongly believe your experience of men being told to put women on a pedestal is restricted to certain groups. All you need do is read this blog to see most men weren’t raised that way.

          But I have heard people say Jewish men make the best husbands…now I know why 😉

        2. Jeremy

          You’re probably right, Marika, that this advice is more prevalent in some communities.  Still, consider the advice of Gottman and Grey that we discussed on that other thread.  Look at the advice they offer men.  Women are not the only ones who are told to subsume their desires…..but often they are the ones who listen.

        3. Emily, the original

          Marika,

          But I have heard people say Jewish men make the best husbands…now I know why 😉

          Mormon men, too. They are very family oriented. (Obviously I’m not talking about the ones with 5 wives!)

          Jeremy wrote: Especially the men women find most attractive because of their prioritization of their own desires.  Or, as Emily puts it, being their own man.

          I’m not sure those men make the best husbands. They’re just on this earth lust after, like models.  🙂

        4. Marika

          Jeremy

          You’re spot on with this one: How can a woman choose a man based on how much of his own man he is, and then complain that he doesn’t listen well enough?

          As women (me included), we need to stop rewarding men for being emotionally withholding and ‘bad boy-ish’. I think that’s what a lot of Evan’s work is about. I’m trying. I’ve actually asked one of my male friends to weigh in when a date’s behaviour strays from a mulligan to just being a jerk. He pulled me up on something the other day (in his no-nonsense fashion) and I immediately recognised that what he was saying was right. I’m guilty of being too accommodating and giving the wrong men one too many chances. The kind of men who are intriguing enough to be attractive, but who will ultimately be bad partners.

          Can I ask, Jeremy if you had good male role models who’ve made you the man you are today? Or did you learn through trial and error? I’m finding the socialisation and conditioning I received growing up quite challenging to shake!

        5. Jeremy

          Socialization is a bitch.  I have so many toxic notions ingrained in me – like the idea that as a man and husband it is my job to give my wife whatever she asks for, no matter how unreasonable.  I had a conversation once with my wife after she asked for a bigger house which would place me under financial strain – she thought there was no harm in asking, and that if we couldn’t afford it I would say so.  She didn’t understand that her request triggered something primal and conditioned inside of me that made me need to give it to her or feel like a failure. I tried explaining that she needs to be careful what she asks for, because I have trouble refusing.

           

          Toxic notions.  The notion that affection must be earned.  The notion that providership is my role.  The notion that my happiness is less important that others.  Shit I know is wrong but can’t seem to shake.

           

          My upbringing was a mixture of positive and negative learning – I spent an inordinate amount of time observing others, especially my family members, and wondering how they could not see the irrationality of their behavior.  So much so, that when I ask myself if I’m being an asshole, I am really asking myself whether I’m behaving like my grandfather.  If I’m wondering if I’m being anxious I wonder if I’m like my dad, if I’m too dreamy and idealistic I’m like my mother.  Too selfish, my brother.  Too inflexible, my sister.  Who am I, then?  Sorry, I guess your question triggered some stuff in me.  I learned from the positive and from the negative, and wonder which my kids will learn from me.

           

          I say this to say I understand you, Marika.  You know what you need to do, but aren’t sure you can do it.  Try.  I’m trying too.

      2. 5.2.2
        Emily, the original

        Nissa,

        I think it’s a shame that more people aren’t recognizing, as you have, that ambivalence is not usually about the partner in question. It’s about a lack of self knowledge that extends into that person’s dating habits.

        Actually, I’m guessing ambivalence is usually about the partner in question, about the relationship, about if the person wants to commit and go all in. If someone is ambivalent, it’s usually because they aren’t sure and/or there’s someone else, either a past person they can’t get over or someone they can’t have, etc.

      3. 5.2.3
        ScottH

        This is what Mr Kalas says about ambivalence:

        “All great love affairs have some degree of “approach/avoid.” Most marriages have periods of time when the partners complain they feel neglected or that the spark is gone. But, when more deeply examined, these same partners discover they have made choices subtle and not-so-subtle making sure no truly vulnerable intimacy is possible. They are at once longing for connection and fleeing from it.

        These periods of ambivalence are not, surprisingly enough, evidence of what is going wrong in a relationship. Quite the contrary, new rounds of ambivalence are the only possible consequence for what’s going right in a relationship. To wit: The partners are succeeding in growing ever-deepening levels of love, intimacy and interdependence. Which, in turn, must force increasingly provocative encounters with disquieting, harrowing vulnerability.”

        1. Emily, the original

          ScottH,

          I’m talking about the kind of ambivalence in the beginning where one person disappears for days, where the contact between dates and the number of dates isn’t really escalating, where three months in, there’s only one phone call and one date a week. That’s either someone who either doesn’t want a relationship in general or doesn’t want one with the person he/she is dating.

      4. 5.2.4
        Clare

        Nissa,

        That’s it exactly. As much as I’d like to agree with Marika above that “most men” feel some kind of reluctance about getting involved with a woman with children, and that this kind of ambivalence can resolve itself down the line, my own experience does not bear this out at all, nor does the experience of anyone that I have ever known.

         

        It may seem like a subtle difference to some, but  to me there is a world of difference between someone who perhaps has their doubts about certain aspects of a new partner – their lifestyle, their habits, the fact that they have children, their past, really anything about them – but is willing to be open-minded and learn more and give it a chance, and someone who is in any way reluctant to get involved with someone. To me, those two scenarios are worlds apart, for exactly the reason you mentioned. The first scenario displays someone who is open to relationships, who is curious about new people, and who is looking to emotionally connect and give something potentially promising a chance. The second scenario betrays someone who values their singlehood more highly, and does not want to risk it for potential inconvenience.

         

        My dating experience, and that of everyone I know, has taught me that there are two types of men. Those who are not that keen on a relationship and commitment, but could maybe be coaxed into it under certain circumstances, and those who want relationship and commitment every bit as much as you do. In my opinion, the first group are better avoided, and you should make your choices from the second group.

         

        To Marika’s point, maybe yes a lot of men would prefer a woman who did not have children from another man. But I have never seen this hold a man back when he really wanted the woman in question. I can understand this myself. I recently got involved with a man who is a year divorced and has two young daughters from his previous marriage. Would I prefer he did not have children by another woman? Sure, especially since I have never been involved with someone with children and have no idea what to expect, really. But he is an absolute catch in every other way: gorgeous, successful and loves his job, intelligent, lighthearted, and most of all, warm, kind, gentle, affectionate and treats me like I hung the moon. So I would be crazy to disqualify him, in my opinion, simply because he has children. So I am giving the relationship my best shot, and I definitely was not reluctant to get involved with him, despite the fact I don’t really know what I’m doing. This is, I imagine, the way a woman with children would want a man to feel about her.

         

        Back to your point, Nissa. I agree with you completely. You and I have talked about the masculine/feminine energy dynamic before, and it being the reason why women don’t pursue and ask guys out. And here, I definitely think it applies. A man who is truly interested will pursue you, and in actual fact, in this scenario, it’s really the only way you have to tell that he does want a relationship with you. If he takes steps to pursue one with you. Contacts you, sets up dates, makes time for you, pays (but not necessarily all the time or for everything), puts you at ease. The use of the word “reluctant” in the LW’s letter does not suggest any of these things to me. And yes, I also agree that ambivalence is absolutely about a lack of self-awareness which is very likely to manifest itself in non-committal behaviour down the line. Men who are self-aware and want relationships know that that’s what they want. When they cannot do a relationship, they will tell you upfront. They will not string you along for months or years half-heartedly. The ones who have done that to me (and I have allowed it to be done to me a few times) were very un-self-aware and had quite a few things to work through in themselves. Trying to have a relationship with an ambivalent person is exhausting.

        1. Marika

          Interesting Clare, but my point is this: happy relationships can start in multiple ways. I know of many happy marriages (including some from regular commenters and Evan) where one or both parties was quite unsure at the beginning, even adamant it wouldn’t work, and not thrilled about aspects of the person’s situation, age, politics, kids etc, but it worked out. Really well. I don’t think in the LWs case it will, but a relationship doesn’t have to start with feeling like the other person hung the moon for it to be happy.

          Also, not all men operate the way you describe. Either because they are a bif shy or lacking in confidence, or it’s not part of the social norms for them to plan, pay, etc consistently.

        2. Karl R

          Clare,

          I’m going to largely go with Marika on this one. (She’s likely referring to me as one of the “regular commenters” whose marriage didn’t have the most auspicious start.)

          Specifically, Sarah said her boyfriend was “a little reluctant” initially. Maybe there’s some subtle semantics going on, but given Sarah’s qualifier, I’m not seeing a big difference between “a little reluctance” and “having doubts”. In addition, if I’m not seeing the semantic difference, I wouldn’t bet that Sarah sees a difference between the terms either.

          Since her relationship then became a good, solid relationship, it seems that her boyfriend became keen on the relationship soon after the start.

           

          But the current situation seems quite different. In my personal experience, whenever someone started leaning away much later in the relationship, the end was nigh.

          I believe the boyfriend still cares for Sarah and wants the best for her. But he’s finding it increasingly unlikely that he’s going to marry her. Therefore, he doesn’t want to drag her (and her kids) halfway around the world right before the relationship ends.

          I don’t think the boyfriend is necessarily a bad guy. He’s facing a tough relationship situation. He’s trying to handle it as best he can. And he’s failing.

          Regardless, Evan’s advice still stands. Sarah needs to move on.

        3. Emily, the original

          Hi KarlR

          In my personal experience, whenever someone started leaning away much later in the relationship, the end was nigh

          Can you give me reasons why a man would be reluctant in the beginning?(And not for the OP’s boyfriend’s reason that she had a child.) Is the ambivalence due to other women he can’t chose between?

        4. Karl R

          Emily, the original asked:

          “Can you give me reasons why a man would be reluctant in the beginning?”

          I can give a number of reasons that both men and women have expressed reluctance, hesitation, doubts, etc. Most aren’t gender-specific.

          1. She wanted kids of her own. His were already grown, and he wasn’t interested in having more.

          2. Different religions.

          3. Different ethnicities, and one of them wasn’t sure their family would accept their boyfriend/girlfriend.

          4. Dating two men/women, and slow to decide between them.

          5. Large age gap.

          6. Long-distance relationship.

          7. Not their usual type, either physically or personality-wise.

          8. They were coworkers. She’d hit on him, but he was her supervisor.

          9. One of them hadn’t finalized the divorce.

          10. The prospective boyfriend/girlfriend had mental health issues.

          11. One partner was bisexual, which made the other partner uncomfortable.

          12. One partner had health problems which could drastically shorten their lifespan or alter their quality of life.

           

          I could go on, but I figure a dozen gives you a general idea of what things run through people’s heads. I suspect many of these would be non-issues for you (personally), while one or two might have you running for the hills … or at least give you a very serious pause.

        5. Clare

          Marika: “I know of many happy marriages (including some from regular commenters and Evan) where one or both parties was quite unsure at the beginning, even adamant it wouldn’t work, and not thrilled about aspects of the person’s situation, age, politics, kids etc, but it worked out. Really well.

           

          Karl R: “I’m going to largely go with Marika on this one. (She’s likely referring to me as one of the “regular commenters” whose marriage didn’t have the most auspicious start.)…. Since her relationship then became a good, solid relationship, it seems that her boyfriend became keen on the relationship soon after the start.

           

          I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you guys on this one. The one thing that all of these relationships that you mention, that started off doubtfully and worked out really well in the long run, have in common is that they got more solid over time, not less so. For me, this tells me that despite their doubts, their hearts were in it. This is not something I see in the LW’s situation, no matter how solid she says her relationship became. I think it is far more likely that she was talking herself into believing that her relationship became solid – I don’t think it ever really was. Call me crazy, but I cannot see Evan or Karl R relocating to a different country without their wives and then taking up with another woman when they got there. Hence my belief that there is a fundamental difference between the LW’s relationship and the ones you mention, and that difference was there from the beginning. The relationship did not just magically become unstable when he decided to take a job overseas.

           

          And Karl R: “I believe the boyfriend still cares for Sarah and wants the best for her. But he’s finding it increasingly unlikely that he’s going to marry her. Therefore, he doesn’t want to drag her (and her kids) halfway around the world right before the relationship ends.
          I don’t think the boyfriend is necessarily a bad guy. He’s facing a tough relationship situation. He’s trying to handle it as best he can.

          You’ve got to be joking. He’s cheating on her. He’s having a relationship with another woman in the country he’s in, because, let’s face it, it’s more convenient for him, while supposedly being in a committed relationship with the LW. The other woman does not know about her. His family does not know about the other woman. The LW says: “Leading us both on…her for the physical side and actual company, me for the emotional support that comes with a long-term girlfriend. I know about her but she doesn’t know about me. His family only knows about me. His friends know about both of us.”

          The LW’s boyfriend is cheating on her and telling her he’s confused, while she is in the process of trying to (maybe?) uproot her own life and that of her child. Are these the actions of a guy who wants what’s best for her? Who cares for her? C’mon pull the other one.

          If this is what your idea of “not a bad guy” looks like, I’d hate to see your idea of someone who’s a jerk.

        6. Emily, the original

          KarlR,

          I could go on, but I figure a dozen gives you a general idea of what things run through people’s heads. I suspect many of these would be non-issues for you (personally), while one or two might have you running for the hills … or at least give you a very serious pause.

          Ok. Thanks. I usually two reasons for ambivalence in the beginning:

          1,) I’m not sure I like the person enough.

          2.) I do like the person enough, maybe too much, and fear is holding me back while strong interest is drawing me to the person.

  6. 6
    Noquay

    Sad food for thought. I feel for you Sarah. Was in a similar situation but my ldr was only 150 miles away and retired. Yep, as Evan says, it would be nice to wake up with someone seven days a week. However, for many in this part of the country anyway (intermountain West) that’s not an option. Yep, an ldr has a much higher possibility of infidelity but still, compared with unintentional singlehood or worse, with someone whose values will never mesh with yours, it’s worth the risk. Far from optimal but ones only choice except to bail and start anew elsewhere if possible. Sarah, if you see this as your situation, start the bailout process now. It takes time but you’re young and it’ll be worth the investment in time and the initial financial hit. I see four red flags here: one, this dude was reluctant from the get-go; some men can’t handle a woman having pets let alone a child; they want a life totally unencumbered by anything. What was his relationship toward your child when he was there? Two, he chose to move that far away a year into the rship meaning he really didn’t want to commit. Three, did he discuss looking for/taking a distant job with you beforehand? A 12k mile move would only happen for a pretty high end, professional position. Such jobs aren’t offered out of the blue. Applying and interviewing for such a position is a process taking months implying this person wished to leave the country for a while. It also implies that this dude has been actively looking for jobs elsewhere for far longer. Four, a committed person doesn’t “meet” someone new; a committed person allegedly looking for a place where you can join him stays committed to you AND your child AND your life together.

  7. 7
    Marika

    Jeremy 

    I’m in no way suggesting that only women are told to change or compromise in (good) relationship advice.

    I was just wondering where this magical place was where men were told to do everything their wives want, worship & above all make them happy…

    Any friends you want to introduce me to…? 😉

    The reason Gottman encourages men to accept their wives’ influence is that, for many men, they don’t. The husband who minimizes his wife’s contribution and is emotionally quite detached from her and the relationship is not the exception  (eg your brother, father in law and brother in law, my father & ex husband, to name a few). If a man does accept his wife’s influence and particularly in context of disagreement and discord, the relationship, understandably, will be happier. You do this yourself, either because you were taught to or learned it over time. Some/ many men aren’t and don’t.

    Of course there are many things women do to harm relationships too. But Gottman in this article, particularly focuses on men. That’s okay now & then, isn’t it?

    1. 7.1
      Jeremy

      Yes, it’s quite OK as I admitted in that other thread.  My comment at the time was that 1) The men who most need that advice are the least likely to seek it, and 2) That men who DO seek advice tend to be the ones for whom that particular advice will not apply.  But yes, that advice would have been very useful to my father in law, brother in law, and your father and ex, agreed.

       

      Where is this magical place where men are told to do everything their wives want?  That’s pretty much how all the boys I knew were raised.  The only question was whether they listened.  Many did not.  Your description of the advice given to young women is totally beyond my experience.

      1. 7.1.1
        Marika

        Jeremy

        I honestly don’t have shares in the Gottman corporation..hehe..but recall he is first and foremost a couple’s counsellor. The men he sees may well have been dragged along by their wives, but he saw men too. I also used to leave books and articles I was reading about building better relationships around the house for my ex to peruse, as advised by one of the relationship counsellors/writers I consulted. Sometimes it worked.

        I can see why the advice irks you, given your upbringing. I’m wondering though why the women in your life who you’ve mentioned tolerate such bad behaviour from men, when they know there are plenty of men in their community who were raised to treat women so well?

        1. jeremy

          You know why.

  8. 8
    Stacy

    @Hayley

    No, it is NOT judgmental and holier than thou to tell someone that they should leave a relationship if the relationship is not in their best interest. It is not a ‘sweeping generalization’. It’s simply the most beneficial option if one is in this type of arrangement.  If I say that smoking is bad for you but you decide to do it often anyway, it’s not judgmental to acknowledge that smoking is STILL bad for you and the most beneficial arrangement for your health is to quit.

    I think most people (over 30 at least) can attest to being in a bad relationship.  I left a cheating husband with two kids under 3 after finding him with someone else.  It was not easy. In fact, it was downright hell at the time. But being alone trumps being miserable or opening up yourself to disease or manipulation or what ifs, or always wondering where you stand – and ESPECIALLY when you have young children who are impressionable and fragile. No one suggested that being alone does not suck (if you want a relationship). However, I have never seen a positive outcome when someone stayed in a relationship when it’s not beneficial to that person. And I still say, for me, (or maybe it’s because I am fabulous and adore my own company), being alone trumps being in a shitty situation period.  And, I firmly believe that if you hate your own company so much that you’re willing to put up with bullshyt to be in a relationship, then there are issues you need to resolve within yourself.

    It is not (negatively) judgmental (so tired of that overused word) to offer this advice to someone who ASKED for it.  In fact, a blog is full of judgment. That’s what we do every.single.time we formulate an opinion about a situation. We judge.

    1. 8.1
      Marika

      I think you’re right, Stacy, but I also think you’ve had good role models and been given useful messages in that regard. Not everyone has.

      That doesn’t negate the usefulness of your advice, but I can see that for some people, it’s hard to take. I think they need to ease into that idea, people don’t change overnight.

      Sorry about your ex, that’s nasty.

      1. 8.1.1
        Stacy

        @Marika

        Fair enough…I can understand that, and, thank you.

    2. 8.2
      Hayley

      It’s not judgemental to point out a fact (and I agree with you that being single is better than being in a bad relationship is essentially a fact). It’s negatively judgemental (I can use that word as much as I want, by the way) to throw around shoulds and shouldn’ts because it ignores the emotional complexity of the situation. I don’t know a single smoker who doesn’t know smoking is bad for them. The solution to getting smokers to quit is clearly more complicated than simply presenting them with facts about its negative impacts. I don’t know anyone who lives their life only by following logic–all of us are motivated by our emotions, but to varying extents.

      A compassionate approach that acknowledges the emotional reality of the situation is always going to be the most productive approach, in my opinion. That’s nowhere near saying that anyone should stay in a bad relationship.

      1. 8.2.1
        Stacy

        @Hayley

        Last comment to you and I will move on. Saying that you SHOULD do something is NOT ignoring the emotional complexity of a situation. OMG…I don’t understand how you mix the two. And in no way does it exclude the compassion. But everyone’s communication style is different and for instance, if I see my best friend in a situation, I am going to tell her (IF she asks for my advice), this is what I believe you SHOULD do based on A, B, and C.  I don’t have to pretty it up because for me, that’s the MOST useless approach. And you are saying that anyone should stay in a bad relationship. I believe that is EXACTLY what you wanted me to say but I digress.

        I sympathize with people who (and we don’t know this goes for the OP but certainly for you) feel so much pain when being alone as opposed to a relationship. My closest girlfriend is like that. But it does not eliminate the FACT that staying with someone who either uses you, abuses you, doesn’t respect you, etc. is NEVER the better alternative. So yes, I accept that I am judging just as you are judging me so in those terms, we are equal. And of course you can use the term ‘judgment’ all you want. And, I have the right to call you out on it as well (which I did). If the OP asks a question, then she wants opinions about what she SHOULD do.

        At this point, we just have to agree to disagree. You have your approach and I have mine.

  9. 9
    Marika

    Re Karl Rs list above :

    I think that’s really useful to set out. IMHO, there’s too much of the mentality that if a guy isn’t knocking down your door from day 1, then he’s clearly ‘JNTIY’.

    There are plenty of reasonable reasons (particularly once we’re 30 and older), that a person could be very attracted to you, but have reservations (that have nothing to do with level of desire or interest in you personally). I have more faith in a relationship that’s built on a serious think through & potentially discussion of if it’s actually likely that you can align with what each other wants/needs, rather than my typical (past, hopefully) MO, of throwing caution to the wind in the name of passion! Better still if you can be honest (without being hurtful) with each other re any reservations.

  10. 10
    Marika

    Clare

    I’m not saying  (neither do I think Karl is) that the LW’s relationship is solid or will work out. I’m disagreeing with the idea that if a person has doubts at the beginning, that the relationship is doomed. You made out that the LW’s boyfriend’s reluctance at the beginning, because she had kids, was the kiss of death for the relationship. I’m saying a relationship can start out with reservations (even serious ones) and still work out. You can’t ‘disagree’ with us on that concept, as we’ve both seen it happen. Multiple times.

    1. 10.1
      Stacy

      @Marika,

      I agree with you on this.  Shucks, I had doubts when I first men the person I am currently in a relationship (because I did not feel the instant chemistry I normally feel), but over time, those doubts completely went out the window.

      And while having a child adds a deeper level of complexity, I think the underlying theme is the same.

    2. 10.2
      Jeremy

      It’s funny, I read Karl’s comment that having doubts at the beginning of a relationship doesn’t necessarily spell doom and I agreed.  Then I read his list of causes of doubt, and I thought that many of those should cause more than doubt, they should throw the whole relationship into question, especially if a traditional marriage with children is desired (though many of his items were less of an issue if a marriage of romance or companionship is desired).

       

      To me, doubt of compatibility is something like he wants 2 kids, she wants 5.  In that case I’d say, “Dude, you’re going to fight about this until she gets her way, but your marriage will survive it.”   But deal-breaker of compatibility is he wants NO kids, she wants 5.  In that case I’d say, “Dude, your marriage will not survive this, someone is going to get terribly hurt, and you’d each be better off with someone else.”

       

      In the same way, regarding religion, a marriage can survive between 2 people of differing religions if religion doesn’t matter all that much to either of them.  But if it matters very much to at least one of them and the other disagrees, that should be a deal-breaker IMHO, especially if they hope to raise kids.  A Jewish atheist married to a Catholic who allows her children to be raised Jewish can survive.  An orthodox Jew married to a practicing Catholic…..well, not a great idea.

       

      I’ve written before that in the early stages of a relationship, a good relationship should be easy.  It shouldn’t be fraught with major compatibility issues – if it is, it is perhaps not a very predictable union (or better to say, the future arguments will be very predictable).  In the case of the LW, the fact that the guy wasn’t sure he wanted to get involved with a woman with kids is not necessarily a deal-breaker or predictor of disaster, because the fact that she has a kid obviously didn’t bother him enough not to date her and think of marriage with her.  It didn’t strike against his core values.   I think that the issue wasn’t necessarily the kid, or the doubts he had initially because she had a kid.  I think instead it is the doubts he currently has about her now, which could have developed regardless of any doubts he had or did not have in the beginning.  If I was crazy about a woman, I wouldn’t move 12000 miles away from her.  I wouldn’t date other women.  I wouldn’t tell her I wasn’t sure.

    3. 10.3
      Clare

      Marika,

       

      I think you and I are talking at cross-purposes.

       

      I was talking about the LW’s relationship specifically, and my contention was that it specifically started on a shaky foundation and did not get any better with time, despite what the LW said.

       

      Of course I’m not saying that every relationship which started out with reservations cannot work out. How could I possibly know that? If you read my post, I even said that I think there is a big difference between someone who has doubts, and someone who is reluctant to get involved at all.

       

      Again, I was talking about a relationship such as the LW has written about… for me, every word she’s written seems to suggest that his heart was not all in it. I was not generalizing to all relationships because, again, how could I possibly know that?

      1. 10.3.1
        Marika

        Hi Clare

        In your response to Nissa (mentioning me and my comments), you made quite a few sweeping statements about men & how men act in dating and how damaging ambivalence is, that you said applied to your dating life and that of everyone you know. Unless I misread that.

        That’s what I was disagreeing with.

        I think we’re on the same page when it comes to the LW, but the broader generalisations of how men act when interested vs not interested, how damaging ambivalence is etc. – I’m on a different page. Men don’t fall into two categories, they fall into many categories, IMO, and socialisation, culture, religion, meta goals ( (C) Jeremy) etc etc can all affect whether or not they pursue you actively, are more circumspect, whether they dive right in, have doubts, have none, are more or less cautious…

        1. Clare

          I think they probably weren’t as sweeping as you thought, but it’s difficult to explain the nuances of what I mean in a text-based post on the internet, and without it being extremely long.

           

          Of course men fall into more than two categories… they fall into a potentially infinite number of categories. Clearly I was not saying that there are only two defining characteristics for men (it’s getting a little exhausting to have to defend myself against rather silly ideas that I never meant nor implied). What I was saying is that it’s helpful, for the purposes of deciding whether or not to get involved with someone, to consider whether a man is eager/keen/willing to invest, and whether he is not keen/indifferent/needs coaxing. Are we on the same page so far?

           

          Within those two categories there might be infinite variety of many different qualities. But from where I stand, I believe it’s better to choose from the men who are willing to go all in for a relationship. The ones who want a relationship, the ones who don’t have to be convinced, who are not still hanging onto their singlehood with one hand. That does not mean that such men never have doubts. But it does mean that you can feel, in a tangible way, that they want to pursue something with you, to build something with you, to resolve those doubts and become more invested with time. This saves you from having to drag a man into a relationship that he doesn’t really want to be in.

           

          Is my meaning clearer now? And please don’t attribute any silly ideas to me again. Much of what is said here is simplified for the sake of brevity. I clearly did not mean there are only two types of men period. I simply meant that for the purposes of the point I was making, namely to decide whether or not to get further involved with a man, that it is helpful to be able to see whether he is the kind of man who is willing to invest, or the kind who is not so keen.

  11. 11
    Karl R

    Clare,

    I think you’re making a lot of assumptions about things Sarah didn’t say.

     

    Sarah said:

    “At first, I assumed he was just confessing to a one night stand,”

    “further talking has revealed it’s more than that. He’s seen this girl a few times and is now totally unsure what he wants.”

    Based on Sarah’s statement, can you say with certainty that the boyfriend had sex with the other woman? At some point, Sarah thought he was about to admit to a one-night stand. But she’s either very circumspect in how she describes what happened, or perhaps the boyfriend’s interaction with the local girl was less intimate than that.

    Was it “more” than a one-night stand, because it’s worse than a one-night stand, or because he had sex and it’s also worse than that? Again, it’s unclear. He’s considering breaking up with Sarah, which some women would consider worse than a one-night stand.

     

    Location, location, location.

    The boyfriend moved 12,000 miles. Which country is that? Australia? New Zealand? Singapore? Indonesia? Thailand? Philippines? South Africa?

    If the boyfriend is in Australia, then having sex with a woman on the first date (or one of the first few) is a reasonable possibility. Many of the other countries are a lot more sexually conservative. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two serious taboos, perhaps even criminal laws, against casual sex.

     

    Don’t assume the boyfriend is deliberately shooting himself in the foot.

    On a few occasions, I’ve dealt with situations where more than one woman was in the picture. (For example, I had been dating one lady casually, but wanted to start dating another lady seriously.) Assume the guy is smart enough to want to end up with one girlfriend, rather than zero.

    In the example above, I had done some not-quite-date things with the new lady. So before making an actual date with the new lady, I explained the situation to the lady I’d been dating casually, and broke things off with her. (She had known for months that it wasn’t a permanent thing.) Afterwards, I asked the other lady out.

    I didn’t have to explain to the new lady about the lady I’d been casually dating, because I’d broken things off before the first date. No matter how you looked at it, I hadn’t cheated on anyone. And the only thing I had to do was slow things down with the new lady, until I could conclude the casual relationship with the other.

     

    A couple other times I was casually dating more than one woman simultaneously. (The first dates occurred within the same week.) Until I reached the point I could decide which one I wanted to pursue seriously, it was in my best interest to let both ladies know that I was seeing more than one woman, and avoid having sex with either woman … until I broke up with one of them.

     

    If Sarah’s boyfriend has any thought that the local girl could become permanent, then he also has to expect that she’ll meet his parents … who know he’s dating Sarah. Even setting cultural considerations aside (maybe he is in Australia), most women will get pissed if they later discover that you were two-timing during the first weeks/months you were dating them … even if you dumped the other woman later.

    Therefore, the sensible move would be to keep things strictly platonic with the local girl … until he can sort out his feelings. (The more sensible move would be to keep things platonic by explaining to the local girl that he already has a serious long-distance relationship … so the boyfriend is clearly not handling that one in the best manner.)

     

    Clare,

    It is possible that your interpretation of events is more accurate than mine. In that case, your assertions about the boyfriends character (or lack of character) are completely accurate.

    Clearly Sarah sees cheating as a possibility (and may have even seen it as a possibility before the boyfriend moved halfway around the world), which is one reason I think this relationship is going downhill fast.

     

    Clare said:

    “Call me crazy, but I cannot see Evan or Karl R relocating to a different country without their wives and then taking up with another woman when they got there.”

    I’m not relocating without my wife. Period. I’m pretty damn sure that Evan isn’t relocating without his wife either.

    LTRs don’t work for us.

    Given the stuff I’m willing to try, like dating someone 16 years older, or dating someone with very different religious beliefs (a couple of the items from the list were from my personal dating history), the hard stop about LTRs is probably telling.

    1. 11.1
      Emily, the original

      Karl R,

      A couple other times I was casually dating more than one woman simultaneously. (The first dates occurred within the same week.) Until I reached the point I could decide which one I wanted to pursue seriously, it was in my best interest to let both ladies know that I was seeing more than one woman, and avoid having sex with either woman … until I broke up with one of them.

      I have to be honest: If I was one of these women you were casually dating, I wouldn’t want or need to be told you were seeing other people. I just don’t think it’s necessary and it’s assumed unless you have the “dtr”(determine the relationship) conversation or the topic is brought up before you get sexual. Also, I think a good portion of the time women can tell things are casual, unless you are calling every day and seeing each other every weekend and things are evolving with more time spent with each other.

      Here’s a question: What would you have done if the women you wanted to get serious with said no? Continue dating the casual lady? What happens if your first choice says no?

      1. 11.1.1
        Karl R

        Emily, the original said:

        “If I was one of these women you were casually dating, I wouldn’t want or need to be told you were seeing other people. I just don’t think it’s necessary and it’s assumed unless you have the ‘dtr'(determine the relationship) conversation or the topic is brought up before you get sexual.”

        I get your point. That would have been my preference as well.

        As a man who wanted to act ethically (at least by a code of ethics that I could feel comfortable with), I couldn’t assume that my girlfriends had been reading Evan’s recommendations. To the best of my knowledge, none of them were. We weren’t necessarily playing the game by the same rules.

        When it comes to ethical gray areas, I’d rather over-communicate, even though it’s uncomfortable for both parties, rather than under-communicate, and get branded as a cheater.

         

        Emily, the original asked:

        “What would you have done if the women you wanted to get serious with said no? Continue dating the casual lady?”

        No. It hadn’t been a serious relationship, and I deliberately made a clean break. That other relationship didn’t last particularly long, but I didn’t try to hook up again with the casual date after things ended.

        It would have felt tacky to resume a casual relationship after explicitly breaking things off.

         

        Emily, the original asked:

        “What happens if your first choice says no?”

        In the cases when it happened, the decision was made, I wasn’t trying to position the other lady as “Plan B”. But if I look at the total range of possible hypothetical situations, I might have acted differently in another situation.

         

        I’m not opposed to “Plan B”. I just found it a lot more convenient to have “Plan B” be a woman whom I hadn’t dated at all.

        More than once, I was in a serious relationship with a woman, and I met another woman who seemed like an amazing potential girlfriend. Each time, I “happened” to mention (within the first 10 minutes of conversation) that I had a girlfriend.

        Strategically, it worked a lot better than any strategy for stringing a woman along. I wasn’t expected to make moves on any kind of timetable. I wasn’t expected to make moves at all … because I was taken. And because of some perverse female logic that I’ve never understood, I’m a better catch because I’m taken.

        If the one relationship ended, as long as “Plan B” hadn’t found another boyfriend, I had my next girlfriend lined up.

         

        1. Emily, the original

          Karl,

          When it comes to ethical gray areas, I’d rather over-communicate, even though it’s uncomfortable for both parties, rather than under-communicate, and get branded as a cheater.

          I understand what you are saying and I applaud you for being honest. It’s just a difficult thing to tell someone without sounding like a big of a brag … look at all the women I’m dating …
          More than once, I was in a serious relationship with a woman, and I met another woman who seemed like an amazing potential girlfriend. Each time, I “happened” to mention (within the first 10 minutes of conversation) that I had a girlfriend. … If the one relationship ended, as long as “Plan B” hadn’t found another boyfriend, I had my next girlfriend lined up.
          I’m not sure what to say about that. Were things going south with the first one? Was there an implication you were “taken” but it might not be for long? Were you what I call “putting out the feelers” to see who responded? (Some men who are otherwise taken do that with no intention of acting on it. I’m guessing it’s an ego boost. It can be confusing for the woman, particularly if it’s heavily flirtatious, heavy sexual innuendo, etc.) But having another lined up … sounds a bit clinical.

  12. 12
    Karl R

    Emily, the original said:

    “having another lined up … sounds a bit clinical.”

    It is.

    But Evan encourages women to be the CEO of their love lives. (I’ve never seen it as gender-specific advice.) Regardless of how I feel about a relationship, I want to be able to dispassionately make alternate plans, just in case things don’t go how I’d prefer.

     

     

    Emily, the original said:

    “Were things going south with the first one? Was there an implication you were ‘taken’ but it might not be for long? Were you what I call ‘putting out the feelers’ to see who responded?”

    Up until my wife, none of my relationships lasted a full year, so I tended to assume that the odds of the relationship ending were greater than it lasting the long haul.

    I didn’t ever imply that the relationship was ending.

    I wasn’t “putting out feelers.” Since I’m out social dancing regularly, I can get a decent impression about how someone feels about me (platonic or otherwise) without treating them differently than anyone else.

     

    What I (potentially) communicate/achieve by telling someone I’m in a relationship:

    1. If you’re not interested in me, that’s fine. I’m taken. This conversation is completely platonic.

    2. If you are interested in me. I’m taken. As long as this relationship lasts, everything that happens between us will be platonic.

    3. If you send me hints and signals, I will not act on them or even acknowledge them as hints and signals.

    4. I’m a great catch. (I’ve never understood why, but women assume the taken men are best … and then they complain that the best men are taken.)

    5. Even if I become available in the future, I haven’t promised you anything, explicitly or implicitly.

     

    As you said … “clinical.”

    1. 12.1
      Emily, the original

      Karl R

      Yes, clinical. I’ve broken up with people before and never even gave it  a thought about who I would go out with next. At least not at that moment. I was still wrapped up in the previous situation. I think it’s different for women. We are THRILLED when we meet a guy we really like, who likes us and is interested. The likelihood there would be two such great candidates on the horizon (one you just ended things with; another immediately available) is low.

       I’m a great catch. (I’ve never understood why, but women assume the taken men are best … and then they complain that the best men are taken.)

      The killer attraction of a dare? Idk   I know we’re not supposed to look at dating with a scarcity mentality, but the truth is there is a thinning of the herd once you get in your late 30s/early 40s. I have a male friend who I like and am fond of. I don’t find him unattractive; I’m just not attracted to him. Nothing is motivating me to want to get physical with him. The other day I met a guy who I looked at and thought: Yowza. He was, of course, married. This is not unusual. I have talked about it with friends who are on match.

  13. 13
    Marie

    Sarah – sorry but this relationship is already over, this guy just doesn’t have the guts to break up with you and would rather you make the choice and break up with him.  “It’s for the best” is what he will say.  What exactly is he expecting you to do in the situation he presented otherwise?  Tell him you don’t care about this other girl or the pressure he’s under, you are going to drag your young son halfway across the world to be with him anyways? Whether you want to believe it or not he’s already moved on and what’s left is just him trying to obtain permission so he can get absolution for his guilt.

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