This morning I kind of gave Ann an ultimatum. I felt like we were in relationship limbo and couldn’t stand it anymore. I told her I wanted to figure out a way to move forward, I was sitting at the negotiating table and needed to know whether she was going to sit down or walk away. She agreed to talk about it over the phone this evening. She wrote A short list of desires about what she wants and what she needs. At the end of the post you can see her internal tug-of-war over the our discussion.
All day I was sweating, I knew what was going to happen.
Ann was going to do the right thing and dump me.
I totally deserved it. If you read her post My Biggest Heart Break, you’ll know that just before their marriage her ex dumped her, they got back together but she was devastated and she never looked at him the same. She regretted not listening to her gut and leaving him then, she never wanted to make that mistake again.
Now, when I freaked out I dumped her publicly, on my blog. Flash back anyone? I basically found the big red button in her heart, labeled “Do Not Touch!”, and started doing back flips on it.
I fucked it all up. She didn’t want to make the same mistake she did with her ex and I totally deserved to get dumped.
I actually had to go on a run to try and clear my head before our scheduled call. I felt like the condemned man trying to run from the executioner. I couldn’t run fast enough or far enough.
When we got on the phone Ann asked how I was doing, I told her I was nervous because I was pretty sure she was going to dump me.
Thankfully, Ann is a far better person, a wiser one than me. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, how to move forward, but she wasn’t dead set on dumping me either. Yet.
The problem is that Ann really needs to be focused on fulfilling her own needs right now, for a variety of reasons. She’s ridiculously busy, a single mom right now, dealing with plenty of things in her life. When she has a couple hours of free time she needs to be able to do whatever she needs to stay sane. She shouldn’t have a boyfriend that limits her decisions or causes extra drama. Totally understandable.
The problem for me is that when I’m in a relationship I’m totally focused on my partner and the relationship to the exclusion of all else. When she has an extra hour and doesn’t spend it on me, I’m going to be hurt. Every time. This doesn’t work for either of us.
So, you can see our dilemma, Ann’s dilemma. We were both hurt and having a hard time seeing a path forward.
I made the only suggestion I could think of: we switch to being just friends.
Don’t panic yet.
I’m a strange duck. It’s a tactic, not a break up.
Stick with me, I’m going to describe this to you in the same way I described it to her.
In my post A Truly Loving Relationship I described a bit about what love is to me. Love isn’t something that is turned on or off, it’s not something based on conditions. It’s simple, if you love someone, you love someone. That person is family, they will always be family. You want them to be happy, no matter what.
What I realized in my relationship with Cat was that lateral moves were possible. You can continue loving someone even if their role in your life is changed. I’m a very vanilla, straight forward kind of guy, but I had to figure out how to make things with Cat comfortable because we were trying to put our daughter first.
When I went into the open relationship with Cat, I moved her from the “LTR” box in my head to the “BFF with Benefits” box. She was still family, I still loved her, I wanted her to be happy, I just changed her role in my life. It changed the expectations and gave us both the flexibility to be in the open relationship. When we got divorced and Cat got remarried, I moved her from the “BFF with Benefits” box to the generic “Family” box. She’s still family, I still loved her, I wanted her to be happy, I just changed her role in my life. That’s how we got through the divorce without lawyers, still communicate regularly, and get along really well. She will always be family.
Most of the friction between Ann and me in our relationship is because Ann is in my “LTR” box. I’m too focused on her, the expectations are too high and she needs more wiggle room. We both need some space or we’re going to keep hitting land mines in our relationship.
Ann seemed a little skeptical at first because the whole “moving boxes in the brain” thing seemed like an alien concept to her, but once I explained that it didn’t really change much she thought we should give it a try. If we were in the same city this wouldn’t make any sense, but long distance it really doesn’t affect much. At least 90% of our relationship will remain exactly the same. We chat all day, email, and try to take trips to see each other (and still have benefits when we do), but it lightens the pressure on both of us.
So, Ann is getting moved to the “BFF with Benefits when possible” box. She’s still family, I still love her, want her to be happy, we’re just changing up the roles a bit.
Practically, this doesn’t really change much except perceptions and expectations. I’ll give you a few examples.
A. Your long term partner is too busy to spend much time with you but goes out with someone else = Jealousy, resentment, and pain.
B. Your long distance BFF is too busy to spend much time with you but goes out with someone else = Cool, hope you can blow off some steam.
A. Your long distance, long term partner doesn’t have time or energy to make you feel special = Feeling neglected, left out, and hurt.
B. Your long distance BFF doesn’t have time or energy to make you feel special = That sucks, hope your schedule lightens up.
A. Your long term partner doesn’t tell you about sleeping with someone = Jealousy, rage, resentment.
B. Your long distance BFF doesn’t tell you about sleeping with someone = Hope you wore a rubber.
A. Your long term partner doesn’t answer a text for a couple hours = Am I being cheated on?
B. Your long distance BFF doesn’t answer a text for a couple hours = Huh, must be busy.
Hopefully all of that makes sense.
For me, this relatively minor move isn’t all that difficult. She’s still family, I love her and want her to be happy, but it takes away the laser-like focus I have on her. It gives her space and lets me focus on other things. As it doesn’t change much for Ann, except hopefully in a good way, she thinks it will work for her too.
It’s also relatively easy to switch boxes again if that’s what we decide to do at a later time. If this move makes things harder on her, I can switch her back. If we move to a closer location, I can switch her back. But until then, we maintain the friendship and the love at the core of our relationship.
Yes, this will mean that I don’t consider myself in a monogamous relationship anymore. You don’t have monogamous relationships with your “BFF with benefits when possible”, but being “single/it’s complicated” doesn’t change much in my life. Before falling for Ann I hadn’t really dated in years, I don’t go for casual sex and I have plenty in my own life the deserves attention. I’ll still be talking with Ann daily, still making trips to see her, but I’ll be able to focus more on myself, improving my own life in the meantime. Besides, my bar is so high right now that no one is going to come close to measuring up.
So, yes, we’re still in love, still plotting together, and trying to move forward. This might sound like a step backward, but really it’s more of a lateral movement and one that will hopefully benefit the both of us until we can find a more permanent solution. And we can always try something else if this causes any problems.
The only big change will be that I am switching back to blogger. It’s one thing to be ignorant of your BFF/lover’s sexcapades, another to have them displayed eloquently in a post along with any mistakes/orgasms/details that might stretch the heart strings. This is actually a move I’ve been talking about for a while though, so it’s not a big sacrifice on my part. As I’m focusing more on my own life I’ve realized how much time I spend here when I could be doing something more productive. There are a so many amazing bloggers out there and it’s just too easy to get sucked into the details of their lives instead of working on my own. I got rid of my TV so that I could focus more on writing, instead I end up replacing it with WordPress. It’s easy to give up the site, not so easy to say Goodbye to all the amazing people I’ve met through here.
I’ll leave the site up for a couple weeks while I move everything over to blogger but then I’ll probably delete the account. Both to remove the temptation to get sucked into my reader and to avoid the temptation to check out what Ann’s up to.
Honestly, I’m relieved that I didn’t get dumped. Quite frankly, I deserve it. She’s family though, she’s not going to get rid of me easily.