Savage Love Letter of the Day: The Boyfriend Is Out—Should I Get Out?

Comments

1
Good advice, and I'm all in favor of rounding. But this one sounds like it should be rounded down, by LW's description of her concerns about the relationship.
2
I think this relationship has run its course.
3
Guilt-tripping your SO about something like getting a PhD is a sign of something really wrong with someone's personality. He doesn't want you to have your own goals, you should be focused on him - that's the basic message he's sending.

So what can you expect when you have that serious conversation about marriage and children, or threesomes? Accusations of selfishness whenever you don't agree with him. And don't we all just hate people who wrongly accuse others of the precise things they themselves are guilty of?

You probably have a bright future ahead of you. Don't let yourself be weighed down by anyone who wouldn't think twice about weighing you down for his own satisfaction.
4
He ain't it.
5
Yes LW, as Dan points out so well, telling the truth will lead to a certain discussion you wouldn't have, if you keep quiet.
6
Dan's advice was measured and practical. If following it will slow down completing your dissertation, DTMFA.
Seriously, you do not need a millstone to carry as you arch toward the end of the doctoral process. Call it a break when you get into the down and dirty part of finishing the degree if you want to, but reread what you wrote. You're fundamentally incompatible. Conversely, if breaking up now will adversely impact finishing your dissertation, wait, but resolve the relationship before the grace period on your loan repayment is up.
Good luck.
7
Getting a PhD is a big thing. A really big thing. It takes a long time, a lot of dedicated effort, and will have huge longterm impacts on your whole life. Guilt-tripping you over it seems very shortsighted, selfish, and downright dickish. Dan skipped this entirely, but I found this more troubling than some of the other issues.

I'm also of the opinion that marriage and/or babies are critical issues that you must find some agreement on. I don't think there is any way for a long term relationship to last if one person wants kids and the other does not. That isn't like a disagreement over the color of bathroom towels. That is a make or break issue for most people.

Maybe you can make this work. You are very fond of this man. But there seems to be quite a few non-trivial issues that stand in the way of making this work for the long term.
8
Ph.D. here. I got mine with a lot of support from my then-partner (we split about a decade after I got the sheepskin), and I am grateful for every bit of confirmation he gave me. I'm particularly grateful for the ways in which he made my life easier while I worked on the dissertation, and the pep talks he gave me when jumping through hoops and pleasing professors seemed impossible.

This is all just to say--if your boyfriend doesn't have your back and this most crucial of times, he won't have it later, and he isn't the right boyfriend for you. You're already in separate cities. You already have your apartment your career path. Say your cordial goodbye, and move on.
9
Wise words all around.
10
"Gotta have" vs "wish I had, but could live without if i had to"...kids, threesomes. The answer is which version is it. If its "Gotta have" for one of you but not the other, it's time to move on...these are make-or-break issues. I'll say one thing though. I didn't think I wanted kids before I met my wife (though I wasn't dead set against them) and now I'm totally glad we had them - can't imagine not, 'cause they are great. If you're ambiguous, search your heart. This might be something you'll change your mind about a few years down the road. But don't fake it if you REALLY feel like kids aren't for you. That's a terrible thing to do to another person.
11
Generally speaking, after you get the Ph.D. you still won't have a lot of control over where you live. The jobs that match your qualifications aren't likely to be in the city where your partner currently lives. End it amicably, but end it before you go on the job hunt. If your job hunt happens to land you in his city, and if you feel like it then, you can try dating again. Or not.
12
"So feeling less sure about him being "The One" isn't proof that he isn't "The One," OTF, because he never was "The One.""

Right, but sounds like he isn't a "one".
13
Perhaps you're in an industry where this isn't the norm, but as far as I understand PhDs, one rather has to go where the work is in order to get use out of it. If that's the case for your industry (i.e, you're likely going to end up teaching at whichever college needs a prof in your field; or relocate to a tech corridor, or whatever), you're also going to need to make sure he's really on board with relocating.
14
Ph.D or A.A., you don't want this. Be free.
15
I agree with all who state that guilt tripping someone for furthering their education is a horrible thing. But (and I feel this same way in nearly every letter Dan answers) it's worth noting that we're only getting one side of the conversation here. One persons guilt trip could certainly be another's legitimately grounded complaint or concern. Which I suppose is all the more reason to have that difficult conversation. Best wishes to the LW here regardless how it plays out.
16
The lw is better off without him; this relationship has run its course.
I'm all in favor of rounding up to "the one,"but a ".64?" Even a ".72?" Dan, that's not "rounding up, that's seriously stretching and settling. Round up a .8; don't round up a .6. .6 is only a little more than halfway, and that's pretty far from being a "one."
17
Together since 21...you've already given most of your adult life to this guy. Take some time and explore. Date other people. Have some hookups. Find a way to have some downtime from your studies. Do it now, or before you know it a decade will have passed and you'll be no better off.
18
Perhaps LW deserves a Chambers Award - love hasn't been this much of a battle since the first five seasons of Cheers.

I hate to inflict math on Ms Cute, but I'll suggest anything over .75 - things can get twice as bad but still be better than not (It's a pity the most interesting fraction in Final Jeopardy is 2/3, as that would be a fun inclusion, but there it is), or, for those who want more margin, 5/6, 7/8 or .9, which ought to be as sufficiently close to consensus as Mrs Elton's fortune was to ten thousand pounds.
19
DonnyKlicious, while someone may indeed find out they enjoy kids after being talked into them, that is one heck of a risk to take. They aren't a puppy you can take back if it doesn't work out. I would not encourage anyone to have kids unless they are certain it is for them, and even then they can turn out to be wrong. Too many kids already have parents who don't want them, and trust me the kid knows.

As far as this relationship goes, I am not seeing a lot to recommend it. I mean, it is possible that there is a lot of good left unsaid, but the bads include different life goals, different basic relationship structure preferences (monogamish or fully monogamous), and him not caring about an important life goal. Add to that a possible insecurity on his part (he may not be insecure, he may just not place high value on her desires), and I see a negative balance. The sunk costs fallacy works no better for relationships than for any other investment; ignore what you have put in once that is gone and can't come back. Just look at things from now forward. And from now onward OTF, if you are reading this, do you see yourself getting a return on your emotional investment? That is something you have to ask yourself, even before you start negotiations with him. Then you will know how to proceed. Maybe you should try negotiating, or maybe you should take the opportunity afforded you by the distance between you and just start over.
20
Said it yesterday. I'll say it again,,,,,

Can we PLEASE get this man a bigger Mic to drop?

To the point, Mr. Savage! You do great work!
21
@18: Mr. Ven, I'm not getting my math wrong, because this is s preference thing. You would round a .75 up to 1; I would maybe, too. But rounding a .64 seems like settling a bit too much to me. I would expect that we'd come across a lot more .64s in our love lives than .8s or even .75s. That's just a heck of a huge rounding-up leap to me.
22
@16: Agreed that Dan's advice was altogether fantastic except for his very poor maths. I mean, I won't even look at a less-than-85% match on OKCupid. There are millions of .64s in the world, no one should settle for that, even in a short-term relationship.
23
@21: Comments crossed. Perhaps the difference is, with so many fewer choices in the SS world than the OS world, rounding up of a lower match number is necessary?
24
week-to-week is pretty much as far ahead as I can look?

Reminds me of the boyfriend from a couple of weeks ago who declared he needed 3 weeks off to decide where he stood on the relationship.

Does introducing this sort of uncertainty ever work once a relationship is established? If I were on the other side of this, I'd prefer to be dumped.
25
@Ricardo: Guilt-tripping your SO about something like getting a PhD is a sign of something really wrong with someone's personality.

Probably.

Having done the Ph.D. thing with an eye towards getting an academic position, however, I wonder if things might be a bit more complicated than that.

Many Ph.D. programs require a level of commitment that would rival a cult. And a tenure track academic career usually means being prepared to move to wherever the job happens to be.
I eventually changed courses in part because that wasn't something I wanted to inflict on myself, let alone my partner. And I certainly wouldn't have faulted my partner for protesting a career trajectory that could require a move to, say, Michigan or Missouri.
26
One more late vote here for: this is perfect advice.

Really, LW, there are things which can be compromised on - finessed - really easily. Then there are things which cannot. Children are huge on that scale. Sexual orientation is huge. Religiosity & theology are huge. These are things which require the "loser" to endure long-term on-going sacrifice, unlike, say, agreeing that one partner may attend all the musicals and opera they like, and the other will never have to. Ditto week long motorcycle rides and camping in national forests. Dan stepped through this nicely, but, let me be more blunt - you've discovered this guy is really the .33, not the .67 based on these huge fundamental differences, DTMFA.

Now, let me be counter to the rest of the commentariat and point the finger at you, LW, a little. Some of BF's "shitty" behavior and "guilting" around her absence while pursuing her PhD may have more to do with this annoyance and distress at a partner who he senses is - after six years together! - doing a slow fade on him. I wonder if the sudden aversion to marriage has less to do with a philosophical dislike of marriage in general, or simply marriage to this guy. It's a lot like people who "love their spouses" but just have no libido whatsoever, and then after the sexually rejected spouse finally gives up and bails (and takes the blame for being the Bad Guy™), suddenly discovers they have a raging libido for their next partner.

This sounds like someone who has stayed too long in the relationship because of the sunken cost fallacy. People in their late teens through early twenties generally have no idea who they are and what they want out of life, or where they want to go; there in the middle of a process of self-discovery. Sounds like - no villains here - both the LW and BF discovered a bunch of things about themselves - things which render them fundamentally incompatible - and yet, they've let it drag on because of the sunken cost or can't bring themselves to be the Bad Guy™. OP: tell him you think he's lovely, and that you can't give him the things he wants and you have to set him free to go find them and be happy. Sometimes the nice, honorable and kind thing is to be the Bad Guy™.
27
I will have you all know that I approve of the general tone and content of most of these comments. {Harrumphs, adjusts monocle}. Carry on.

Oh, but the compatibility-math thing is kind of hilarious when it's taken too seriously, idnit? Perhaps someone can suggest a weighted-average formula based on a set array of personality traits and life plans? I personally would never round up anyone who scored below a .73666724238219.
28
@ 25 - But those are things that should be discussed before the person embarks on that cult-like activity. And since they're both still young, if the BF had had serious objections and she was determined to go ahead, it would have been a great time to consider going their own way.
29
Ms Cute - Oh, you weren't getting anything wrong; I just thought I was being a bit number-geeky.

Mr Thrust - I was just finding a number that supports something concrete instead of just being an arbitrary number, so that it wouldn't be a case of just pulling numbers out of thin air.

But it's nice that everybody here has mastered the game theory of Final Jeopardy, not that that's so difficult.
30
Totally agree with you, geminilee @19. Just saying that I was ambivalent about having kids before getting married (I was 36). It's not that I DIDN'T want children, it just wasn't a priority, must-have type of thing. I liked kids, just had little experience with them being from a small family. I wasn't "talked into them" I made an informed, intelligent choice to have them later on and never regretted it. LW says she's "pretty ambiguous" so was I. BUT I was in a much different situation than LW with a stable, loving relationship, not 27 with all the other issues she has going on.
31
This was really great advice from Dan, and really the kind of on point relationship wisdom that comes with age. (Sorry, middle-aged Dan). As well as the kind of advice that I think would make Ann Landers pleased to know was still being issued from her desk.

@21 and @22: I sort of agree that 0.64 to 1.0 is a lot of rounding up, but I think Dan just meant to emphasize his point, that settling down requires some (significant) amount of settling for. Dan is also fond of saying that when we meet someone new, we try to project the best version of ourselves, a version that we then need to live up so, perhaps that 0.64 might work to be the 0.85, whom we can round up to 1.0.
32
@31: I've been reading and listening to Dan for over a decade now, and while he's always had the "there is no "one;" you find someone close and round them up to one" attitude, I could swear that the number you round from has gotten lower. It makes me wonder. If Dan met Terry now and decided he was only a bit more than half of what Dan was looking for in a partner or would want in a partner, would he say, "well, he's only .64, but I guess I could never find someone closer and I'll round up"?

I think that the general "round them up to one" advice applies best to those people who carry a mental checklist or are constantly dismissing people for one tiny flaw or who meet great person after great person and reject them all because they're not absolutely perfect. This advice, given more and more frequently with the number adjusted downward seems to smack of impatience on Dan's part.

I realize that we all have to make some adjustments and we all have to settle, and there are other mitigating factors, such as exactly how pie in the sky your "requirements" are and how much someone would have to put up with in dating/living with/marrying you, but if you're relatively ordinary and you're looking for relatively ordinary, too, and you're told to settle for almost as much as you're getting that you actually wanted, that seems kind of sad.
33
@ 32 - Totally agree. One should always maintain some standards.

I know I've grown more demanding over the years, but that's because rounding up from 0.64 turned out to be a disastrous idea. I wouldn't settle for less than a 0.9 nowadays. Of course, that means I've been single for the last five years and am very likely to stay that way, but I'd rather be alone than in bad company.
34
"Do I disrupt the harmony..."

What harmony?
It doesn't sound like the two of you share much of anything in terms of lifestyle preferences.

"(threesomes can be tricky)"

FWIW, in any threesome where feelings are in the mix, maintain physical contact with both other parties at all times. ;)
35
And also for what it's worth, I'm completely with Ricardo: Where marriage is involved, I wouldn't round up less than a 0.9, and didn't. It means having to look at more candidates, rather than just settling on the first 0.7 or whatever, but it's worth it.

It doesn't have to mean being long-term single, but it probably does mean dating a lot of different people--all but one of whom won't be the right one--until you find someone who is. I get that some people really hate short-term relationships, so I can see the price in aggravation being too high for some people. But if you like (or at least can tolerate) the process of searching, keep searching until you find good, rather than just "good enough."
36
@ 35 - Thanks for specifying that it doesn't have to mean being long-term single. My own example is not to be taken as a generalization.
37
I dunno but this pretty much tells me they are not right for each other in the long haul: "I’m not so keen on marriage, and am pretty ambiguous about kids—he wants both." These are rarely things people suddenly have a change of heart about and we all know what most people fight about -- money, kids, sex, chores. Those are important questions to address before anyone considers where a relationship may or may not be "going" (and not all relationships need to "go anywhere, BTW) because studies indicate happy partnerships occur when the couple has matched expectations. Perhaps the first thing she really needs to ask herself what she wants a partnership to look like.
38
You had to go to therapy because he came out as bi? WTF
39
ghost @38, he didn't just come out as bi; he came out as bi plus clearly interested in having sex with men. Do you think it's illegitimate to try therapy to wrap your head around non-monogamy if you're new to the idea? Personally, I think it's a good idea.

In fact, I think people should almost always try therapy if something in their life makes them think they possibly give it a try. People carry a lot of baggage around from childhood, and having a professional address some of the stuff in your head can be very helpful. I certainly resisted going to therapy long past the point when I should have.
40
@39 EricaP

She is, of course, the judge of whether therapy is right for her. The way I read it, she needed therapy over the mere revelation that he's bi. If that's true, then that's very surprising to me and is potentially something I need to keep in mind in the future. The very, very distant, hypothetical future.
41
She puts therapy in the sentence about having threesomes with men and feeling monogamish, which is why I take it the therapy wasn't just about her anxiety about dating someone bi but also about non-monogamy.
42
I much prefer your interpretation. In that light she really rose to the challenge life threw at her. That's admirable.
43
@Nocute

I think it's more that Dan is impatient with the idea of 'The One', a concept I'm not too fond of either. I feel it's really unrealistic and damaging. It convinces people to stay in relationships that are bad for them [see the LW] or to pass on relationships that might work.

And we aren't doing real math here. All these numbers are pulled out of our bums to make a point. Mainly that there is no 'perfect relationship' because there are no 'perfect people'. We ALL have flaw and foibles.
44
@36: Yeah. As far as I know, the secret to winning the lottery is simple: Buy a lot of tickets.
45
@44: The shotgun approach has its own downfall as well, of course.