"Should I cling to the sad, small morsel of hope I'm still holding on to? The hope that I can stay with her again? Or should I give up and try my luck with someone else?"

Neither! You need to not be in a relationship with anyone right now. You need to spend some time getting yourself well sorted out before inflicting you on anyone else.
Omfg no. Don't date anyone. For awhile. You are a train wreck and it's not fair to set you loose in the dating pool. Get your shit together, you are twisting yourself into knots pretending you didn't cheat on your partner of nine years. You did, own it, figure out what you need in a relationship so you don't repeat your mistakes.
Omfg no. You are a train wreck. It's not fair to inflict yourself on the dating pool. You cheated on your partner of nine years-maybe you should think about what you really need from a relationship so you don't wind up repeating that.
Oops sorry for the double post!
Two dysfunctional relationships ended and people free to move on. How is this pooch screwed?
As I see it, the most important thing is that AYR is out of a nine-year relationship with a woman with whom he did not have sex for the entirety of their last year together, and who probably wanted out of their relationship for a long time. If AYR focuses on that fact for a moment, he would realize that he actually is in a much better place right now than he was in only recently while still dating Ms. Name, and has every reason to be optimistic. At any rate, I agree that there's really nothing for AYR to do about Ms. Heart, but get out and date other women.

Good boyfriend material, is that like leather or something; Soft/Hard.
LW. I don't think you should go looking for another woman just yet. I do realize a lot of men panic if they are woman less for a period of time, and I assume a lot of women do the same thing if they are man less.
Go thru the grief of losing these two women first. If you have no buddies that will help
You process your pain, do it with a therapist. Cry and wail and feel your loss.
You did cheat. You did lie. You didn't know which way your heart was pointing. So, time out from all of it, grieve and learn. First how to manage and know your self better and two to prove to yourself that without a woman by your side, you are a whole person.


A double post was necessary. Unfortunately the LW will have trouble deciding which one he should heed or if he should just move on to @5.
"she was dating guys on the side"

No, she wasn't dating guys "on the side". You'd dumped her, and then she dated other guys. There's nothing "on the side" about that. The immature, self-centeredness in that wording is striking.

Dude, project a lot less. A whole lot less. Just because you can imagine a happy future with someone you've treated so poorly, doesn't mean (1) they still care, (2) they owe you anything nor (3) that it is a possibility.
Narcissistic, sadistic control freak.

No more dating for you. Get help.
What should you do? Grow the fuck up!
What they all said, 1 2 7 9 and I'm sure more are coming. AYR, I'm sorry for your hurt, and I've done dumb not-grown-up shit in my life too, I'm not judging, but you have some work to do before you go try your luck on anybody else.

How do you get better at doing what you know needs to be done, like being straight with people? How do you get better at knowing what you want before you screw with other people?

Just being out of a relationship for a while can be illuminating. Figure out how to be honest with yourself and write it down for yourself. Therapy might help, if you want it to.
I totally latched on to the same thing @9 did. There was no 'on the side'. She was a free agent. LW needs to grow the fuck up and stop whingeing my god.
LW listen to LavaGirl. You need to take time to mourn your relationships and get your head on straight. Because the thing is you only seem interested in these women once they're gone. You say Ms. Heart was the one, even when you were pushing her away and chasing Ms. Name. And you were unhappy with Ms. Name until she dumped you which was what lit a fire under you in the first place.

To be honest I don't think you loved either of these women as much as you loved the drama and the chase. Leave Ms. Heart alone and work on being okay with being alone, before you go back into dating.
For all the people saying he needs to take time, repair himself, you're a trainwreck, etc....the LW already admitted that he was not good boyfriend material at the time of the breakup, that he needed time, and now that time has passed and he's ready to get back out there.

Granted, we don't know if that amount of time is measured in weeks, months or years...but the tone of letter seems to indicate that enough time has passed (or at least it's getting pretty close). Anyway, he sounds pretty self aware, and far from a "train wreck" imo.

Sure he screwed up, but nothing unforgiveable, and he's owning his mistakes and seeking advice on how to move on.

So I guess this is a long winded way of saying Dan's advice was spot on, and the LW should ignore most of the comments thus far.
It sounds to me like LW is afraid to be alone. He used Ms Heart to get out of a relationship with Ms Name that he couldn't bring himself to end on his own. Once he was done using Ms Heart and she wised up and left, he freaked out that he was down to zero women and now wants Ms Heart back. Dude. Figure out how to be alone and leave those poor women in peace.
Nope, the boy remains a trainwreck. He chased after a woman he didn't actually want, and seriously thinks that pleading with Ms Heart is going to get him some place. He also feels oddly entitled to Ms Heart to faithfully wait for him indefinitely while he was seeing someone else the whole time they were involved. Nope, nope, nope.

The guy needs to learn that sometimes in a love triangle, the best option is "none of the above."
@16: "For all the people saying he needs to take time, repair himself, you're a trainwreck, etc....the LW already admitted that he was not good boyfriend material at the time of the breakup, that he needed time, and now that time has passed and he's ready to get back out there."

He also said that he's calling Ms. Heart constantly despite her being in a committed relationship with some other guy, and holding out hope that they'll get back together. Sorry, admitting that you fucked up does not make you a better person if you persist in your fuck ups. It's just a manipulative tactic at that point. He's not sorry he fucked up. He's sorry it blew up on him.
@17, yes indeed. AYR, if there's anything women you haven't met yet DON'T need, it's you.
If I want to be charitable to the LW, I'll latch onto Dan's assumption that he is terrified of being "the guy who hurt someone," and that his insistence on (1) Staying with a woman who is incompatible with him and (2) Trying to get back together with two women who are (rightly!) fed up with him both stem from that.

I had that same problem, and it also blew up in my face spectacularly. Not only did I end up dragging out relationships long past their expiration date, but I ended up hurting people far more than I would have with a clean break, and getting manipulated by some less-than-upstanding people who deliberately took advantage of this vulnerability. I didn't cheat, but I did end up in situations every bit as pathetic as the one the LW finds himself in.

Dude, before you date anyone else, repeat after me what I wish I could go back in time and tell myself:

Love is messy. Love hurts. If I'm going to date, I'm going to hurt people. Period. It is unavoidable. I can do the right thing and still hurt someone's feelings. I can be a good person, a good boyfriend, and still hurt someone's feelings. I should prioritize other things over not hurting people.

I will put self-respect before and above my desire not to hurt others. If I'm in a relationship that isn't fulfilling my needs or is otherwise making me unhappy, I will speak up about what's bothering me, I will draw a line in the sand, and I will follow through. No third chances. No writing off my concerns. No tolerating a year of sexlessness. I will put my foot down and speak up for myself. I will not worry about not hurting my partner when my partner is hurting me.

And yes, neglect can be a valid reason to leave someone. As can incompatibility. I will not wait for a catastrophic event like cheating or physical abuse before I'll pull the plug on a relationship. Better alone than with someone who makes me unhappy. The world is full of possibilities. I will take that leap. It's scary, but it's inevitable, so better sooner than later.

I will remember that sometimes I will end up hurting someone far worse if I try to avoid hurting them than if I make a clean break. Better to get the pain over with. I will make sure I am honest, decisive, and steadfast, and I will value these things over being "nice."

I will not care what a person says about me once we're done. I can't please everyone. I need to worry about pleasing myself, and about being open and honest in doing so.

When you've taken this to heart, and resolved to live by it, and you've girded yourself up with enough gut to really put it into practice, then you will be ready to date again. Someone else. Because if you've taken it to heart, you know it can't be either of these two women.
Anyone say wtf to this morsel?

"I tried to be a supportive father figure."
@22: He follows up that phrase with "I guess," which makes me think he's searching for a phrase to describe the nature of their relationship, and that's what he came up with. In context (he goes on about the presence of "love" but that absence of "sex/passion"), it seems that he felt some sense of obligation to "take care of" this woman, and loved her more "like a relative" than like a boyfriend.

How about "brother" or "best friend"? His choice of words suggest that if he isn't way older than she is, then at least he thinks of himself as being far more mature than she is. Either way, creepy.
XiaoGui17, nice set of guidelines, I wish they were handed out in schools.

Yeah, no, the letter writer is not done getting his shit sorted out. "Desperate to prove to" woman who's moved on is not sorted out.

And he hasn't had time pass while he was in any kind of resolved situation. Time passed while he'd broken up with Ms. Heart but didn't really get it, which is not a situation that makes anybody more sane over time. And now by my read not much time has passed since he got the message that breakup was real? And *zero* time has passed where he actually *received* that message and *started* moving on. That's the clock he needs to start.
@16, Dave. We reading the same letter? This guy, yes, is aware of how he fucked up. He is saying he is still fucked up, not resolved and over this story. His pain is obvious.
Not the time to bring some new woman into his life, yet,
to " try his luck."
Love is messy. Love hurts. Gui@23.
Good post.
I would add - Love is work. We can't just add people on to us and let the whole thing ride whichever way it rides.
I feel for this man. He sees where he's fucked up.
Yes, some words are a little confusing- father figure as
seatackled@22 pointed out - sounds like he got caught by some need in homegirl, she did run back to mummy when their relationship fell apart.
Might help to explain why their sex life went south.
@24: "Brother" or "best friend" wouldn't account for his apparent sense of duty to take care of this woman, or his lingering guilt that a breakup constituted abandonment. We don't get much about Ms. Name in the letter, but it's quite possible she did something to foster his feelings of obligation. Those who I hesitated to dump were almost always needy and dependent in some way, whether emotionally or financially, and a few manipulative ones made a point of emphasizing just how much their lives would suck if I were to leave.
Dave @16: Sorry, but AYR's feeling-sorry-for-himself language throughout the letter proves that he HASN'T got over these breakups and he ISN'T ready to put himself back in the dating pool. The comments thus far are tough love but be honest, would YOU want to date someone who was not over their ex and who still apparently believes that they hold some kind of ownership over people -- plural -- after they've initiated breakups with them? AYR "feels like a pathetic lost puppy" because he is one. Next woman -- or man -- he sees should be a shrink.
XiaoGui17 @21: Applause! See, YOU get it. AYR, if you are reading these comments, please read @21 several times.
Perfect response Dan. @21 has perfect advice for how to approach your next relationship: sometimes the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Sometimes you have to accept that a previous relationship is blown up beyond all hope, and that that is actually really for the better. So long as you strive to get it right in the future, that's OK.
I hope that one day LW is going to learn that being straight with people is better (and more important) than being non-confrontational.

@21 is perfect.
First of all, dude, you suck at ending relationships, and the reason isn't because you're "good and decent" guy, or even a shitty guy. It's simply because you're a guy, and for a lot of reasons, guys generally suck at dumping women. But! You did manage to end the relationship with your nominal girlfriend, so congratulations, that puts you way ahead of most of us sad sacks who can't even work up the courage to act like assholes with the (unconscious) hope that our women dump us.

Unfortunately, it seems that losing Ms. Heart was the price of your freedom. She was the right girl, but she came at the wrong time. When you've finished wailing and gnashing your teeth at the painful blow fate has dealt you, you need to forget about her, pick yourself up, and make your newly won freedom worth the price you paid for it. You're a wiser man now and far better prepared to navigate the vast and complicated world of women.
Oh, oh, ouch, this hits a little too close to home. The painful insecurity and lack of well-defined personal needs and boundaries is me to a T until pretty recently. I've even been in a similar situation recently, though thankfully not quite so catastrophic because I have the flexibility of being poly.

Sorry, AYR, but you're the problem here. That doesn't mean you're a bad person; it just means you're trying to be a good person in a simplistic, fearful, halfhearted way. You're going to have to grow up and make decisions and be honest and forthright with people, and sometimes that's going to mean hurting them a little to spare yourself and them more pain in the long run. Sometimes it's even going to involve hurting yourself a lot, because you know the alternative is worse. Sometimes you really, really, love the wrong person.

It sounds like you're trying to improve yourself, and that's good. I'll tell you something you won't want to hear, though: you not only probably can't unscrew this pooch, you shouldn't. You shouldn't even want to. This situation has been bad for everyone involved, and the best thing you can do is make any necessary apologies and give all of you time and space to heal. That will be a big, powerful first step on the road to self-improvement - a road that hopefully leads you away from shitty situations like this one.

Oh, and p.s.: AYR? Don't ever try to be a father figure to anyone you're dating (unless it's explicitly negotiated kink, of course, blah blah blah). Remember when I said "boundaries" earlier? You need to define your own role in a relationship, not just stumble into one because you're trying to be nice.
@seatackled: Anyone say wtf to this morsel? "I tried to be a supportive father figure."

Having been in a few LTRs with young women who's fathers abandoned and/or abused them, I can relate to having been cast, sometimes, into what felt like a paternal role.
"Don't ever try to be a father figure to anyone you're dating" is very, very good advice. And when your partner tries to push you into acting as their parent, that's a sign that it's time to leave.
@35: WORD. I've encountered a few too many men who seemed to want a mommy more than a girlfriend. Wait on him hand and foot, pay for all living expenses, and most of all assure him constantly that I love him, and don't go to work because then he'll be lonely. (Heck, if I wanted that, I'd get a cat. Cats are cheaper.)

These ones were also abandoned by their fathers, but I think what really ruined them was that their mothers smothered them and indulged their every whim. It was almost like mommy wanted to make sure she was so sweet to her son that he would never, ever leave her like his fathers did. And so they created little emperors who were so spoiled rotten that no one else would ever measure up to mommy. *shudder*
To paraphrase: "I was in relationship(s) that weren't working. They ended. Now I'm having buyer's remorse and desperately want back in, meanwhile flagellating myself with self-doubt."

Dude, what are you? 13? Relationships come and relationships go (as a general rule). Yes, it's hard while it's happening, but the sun still comes up in the morning. Take a deep breath. Let it go. Concentrate on making yourself a better person. Stop wallowing in "what happened" and focus on "what's to come." Get some convictions. Make decisions and stand by them. Learn from your history and try not to make the same mistakes. Wishy-washy behavior like this = so not attractive to most women / men / dogs / space aliens, etc, etc...

Now go back and re-read XiaoGui17@21's comment. Three or four times if you have to.
@Eudaemonic, @balderdash: "Don't ever try to be a father figure to anyone you're dating" is very, very good advice

Does that include men taking on their partners as financial dependents?
The letter writer is one of the reasons I run into so many people who have given up on relationships. Not that he is one, he is the cause of others giving up.

I don't think he deserves advice as much as the people who deal with him romantically need it.
@ 39


Relationships are about split contribution. Just because someone's contribution is financial doesn't mean the other partner isn't contributing in other meaningful ways.

If you are in a relationship and you feel like your role is more important than your partners you are Doing It Wrong.
Stop being a douchebag. You only want women after they've realized you're a douche. Leave ms heart alone, you screwed up, let it go. Grow up before you Fuck with anyone else.
Please do not date for awhile. You sound like someone who realizes he made a bunch of mistakes and hurt people, and that right there means you'll probably be fine in the long run (i.e.: you're not a sociopath). But for right now, I'd strongly suggest therapy, and to give yourself 6 -12 months to sit in the shambles of your romantic life, learn your lessons, forgive yourself, learn how to be happy alone, and then become open to dating once you no longer need a woman to make you feel like you're OK.

I'm not judging: I did just that after my last relationship exploded. I stopped dating and just focused on figuring out why I kept dating manipulative jerks and why I was so often a needy asshole in relationships. I took the time to reacquaint myself with myself, without a guy around to distract me from the discomfort. And you know, I feel so much better now, knowing I don't need a man in order to feel worthy.

I think you need to do that for yourself, before you date anyone. You're just going to be douchey and ambivalent and codependent in the next relationship, and the one after that, and so on, until you figure out what's going on with you.

Good luck.
Everyone's all like "Waaaah, THIS person, waaaaah, THAT person..." and I'm over here like "Polyaaaaaamoryyyyy. Hellooooo???"
Actual LOL @38 DonnyKlicious on the bit about wishy-washy behavior being generally unattractive.

Definitely with @21 XiaoGui and @34 balderdash, having had problems in a similar vein, although not to a similar degree.

Collectively I think this thread has got it sussed: be alone for a bit, use boundaries, etc. I guess mainly captured in @21 with some good elaboration from seandr, BiDanFan and others on some points.
He doesn't seem to have a hard time falling deeply in love. Leave these two behind and start fresh.
This article reads like a million others and they all have one thing in common. The guy/girl always says something along the lines of " we haven't had sex in so long and I don't please her(him)/don't try/don't think s(he) is attracted to me/maybe I don't try hard enough to meet her(his) needs" There is always an admission of lack of trying or know how to please their partner, followed by complaining or stating that the relationship is sexless.
Which is also then followed by OMG I FOUND SOMEONE SPARKLY SHINY AND NEW THAT I LOVE SO MUCH... (which in most cases is how the current failing relationship began)

If it's not working and you are aware that it may be your fault and you don't communicate effectively to correct it, why expect any other outcome?...
If my SO became consistently lazy ,selfish self pleasing or so insecure they couldn't figure out I was into them after 10 years we'd be having a talk and if it didn't change well you would get either outcome A) a sexless relationship or B) me exiting this dysfunctional relationship.
This guy doesn't want to be with either of these women, he just wants the option. Pursuing them like crazy after they leave, wanting to not be rejected is spurring him on, not genuine feelings for these women. He needs to figure himself out and leave these women alone.
God save us all from men more afraid of looking like dicks than acting like dicks.
Nice new photo in your avatar, Lolorhone.
@49 and @50 nice photo and nice (pithy) sentiment. Trying to convince people he's a nice guy, instead of BEING a nice guy (or gal)...well, that's MY least favorite kind of human, by far. Two successive people like this basically ruined my (rather successful former)'s why I'm holed up in a witness protection plan of sorts instead of engaging in the world like I would like. It's why I abused drugs and alcohol for years. LW, get therapy and take it seriously. Don't make excuses...don't try to gerrymander your therapy. I always believe there is hope for some people like yourself, but don't place the burden of your mistakes on other people.

This part of the letter was pretty significant to me, both in the point that she had to see a therapist, and that he minimized the effect of the letter he sent to her (well and also that he thought she was cheating on him after he broke it off, different sort of wtf): "So I sent the girlfriend-in-my-heart a letter explaining I needed to break up with her because it was all driving me crazy. She took it badly and showed the letter to her therapist. Her therapist confirmed that, yeah, I was probably right and that I wasn't good boyfriend material at the moment." I can almost hear sarcasm from the therapist. But LW can't, can he?
@44: As someone who strongly supports polyamory, I resent you dropping it like a buzzword in a completely inapplicable situation like it's a magic cure-all for every single "love triangle." This LW clearly has issues with relationships, not issues with monogamy. This isn't a jealousy issue or a "love two people simultaneously" issue. It's a "always want what I can't have" issue, a "more concerned about looking nice than being nice" issue, a "sense of duty to care for a grown woman" issue, a "afraid to address a serious problem for fear of hurting feelings" issue, etc.

I knew a similarly peacemaking, terrified-to-hurt-anyone man who was in a poly triad, and his attempt to carry the burden of TWO women's feelings AND resolve any conflicts between the two of them with more self-sacrifice was absolutely crushing him. He was a shell of a man until he finally left both.
@51, yeah, "took it badly" that she didn't chase after you saying no please don't break up with me, maybe.

@44 that's a joke or something, or do you think this guy sounds self-aware and a good communicator?
Sandiai; that doesn't sound good, witness protection plan of sorts.

Yeah, absent fathers- leaving all the work for others to sort, for years.
@54, thanks Lava. I was rescued just in time by a brother.
Dan's advice is 50/50, IMO.

The "spot on"part is for the guy to keep rolling and do his own stuff.

The "missed the barndoor" part is the one about hope. The LAST thing anyone there needs (including his both exes, who moved on without problems, and any new relationships who wouldn't ne amused) n is AYR running around, hoping to turn back time or something.

Cut your losses, move on, learn, shit happens.
@49 +1. [Hey, lolo!]
@56. Agreed. In this case - f- hope. It's done. No point in tearing yourself up about it. How happy I was when my ex gave up hope on "us" and moved the eff on.

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