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Torn Between Two Lovers, And Scared Of What I'll Do


So I’ve been with my girlfriend for almost four years now, and not once have I seriously considered another person, until a month ago. My first day of university this guy comes up to me and just randomly introduces himself with, "Hello, my name is _____ and I just officially got $&#! by the university. How’s your day?" Considering I was in the same situation and I had nothing to do, we started talking. Now it’s a month later, and I’m head over heels for the guy. I mean, he’s rude, completely not serious whatsoever, and painfully honest. Quite the opposite of my girlfriend who is quiet, moderately serious, and very polite. Unfortunately, this guy is also a "love ‘em and leave ‘em, the only place in my heart is for my friends" kind of guy. He has a lot of casual off and on things with girls he knows and very short lived relationships.

Now, I know he has an interest in me because he’s been quite open about it. And now I’m scared of what I’ll do. I keep telling myself it’s crazy to even consider breaking up with someone I love and have loved for over three years for someone who I wouldn’t have a long standing chance with. I know I wouldn’t be any different from the others. Except, perhaps, that we’re good friends and that’s where I stand apart from most of his casuals. This is where it gets really painful.

Even if I did decide I was to go for him, I could not bring myself to break up with my girlfriend. I mean, that’s cheating. The concept is horribly, horribly wrong to me; but I’m so sensitive to her feelings that I’m scared I’d be willing to ignore the future consequences to bypass the immediate ones. I’m wondering if I’m getting bored. Is that normal? This guy lacks so much charm that it’s charming. We have the same twisted sense of humour and we talk for hours. I don’t hug him because I’m worried that I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself from kissing him. That just sets the wheels in motion. I suppose the bottom line is I’m wondering A) what I should do? Is this a sign that I should break up with her at the risk of the emotional turmoil because it is no longer working out (hence the attraction to someone else), B) why I would give up something secure for a real jerk and C) do I still love her? I mean, it’s not like my affection for her is any different now as it was, say six months ago. It took a lot of work to get where we are. Please help,


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Your situation is a pretty common one, Torn. You’ve got two people in your life. On the one hand, you have a solid stable and predictable partner for whom you feel great affection but not a lot of passion or excitement. On the other hand, you have a quirky, devil-may-care, spontaneous and exciting man who promises passion but not anything solid or lasting. You want both spontaneity and solidity out of an ideal partner, but you are finding that you have to choose, and that making the choice is surprisingly difficult. Adding to the complication is that you are away from your girlfriend in a new environment and it is now far easier for you to be around your boyfriend than your girlfriend.

In a marriage, this is the sort of stuff affairs are made of. Often it would be the stable spouse who is passed over for the exciting affair partner met through work or some other public sphere interaction. The situation is particularly tragic when it happens in the context of a marriage as children are often involved, and they suffer as a consequence of divorce, or the emotional estrangement that typically occurs if the partners – who now can no longer trust one another – do not end up divorcing.

In a college environment the consequences of "cheating" are different than they are in most marriages. Most college students are quite young and quite unmarried. My impression (based on nothing more than out-of-date college memories from the 1980s) is that most college students view college as a time for relationship experimentation and do not enter into long term relationships right away. In my own case, I entered college in a committed relationship and then was dropped by my partner who went off with someone else. I was broken up about it for quite a while, but in hindsight, that sort of thing is what happens.

Just because many college students handle this sort of situation by breaking up with (or cheating on) long term partners doesn’t mean that you need to do that too. I think the fact that you’ve not done so in the face of a clear desire to do so is commendable and shows that you are an honorable person with some self-restraint. The question does remain, however, whether you would be hanging in there with your girlfriend because you choose her, or because you want to do the right thing by her, which happens to be (you think) to remain loyal to her even if you very much want to stray. If the primary reason you are staying is out of loyalty, or out of fear that you will lose the comforts associated with your girlfriend then I think you need to think seriously about whether you want your life to be more about the avoidance of fear, or the pursuit of happiness.

If there ever was a good time to break up with someone, it is during the college years, when you are not married, not financially entangled, not living together and not sharing responsibility for children’s upbringing. If you go off with this guy, it will probably be pleasurable, but it will also be fleeting. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many of the best things in life, such as the taste of a summer tomato with sea salt, are fleeting. They don’t last long but they are of high quality while they last.

I cannot tell you what to do or how to go about making this choice, but I will recommend something not to do. Please don’t cheat. If you pursue this boy, do it with self-respect, and respect for the feelings of your girlfriend who is an innocent bystander and who does not deserve to be run over or lied to. I think it is important that if you decide to start pursuing a relationship with this boy, that you break it off with your girlfriend beforehand, or at least tell her of your plans before you act on them and give her the opportunity to walk away from you. The easy thing to do is to have a fling with this boy and then not tell your girlfriend. And you might get away with it if you did that, but you’d know what you did, and based on the guilt you feel now even just contemplating an affair, I think it is safe to say that you’d feel guilty.

Why are you attracted to this man? Really, it’s not rocket science to know why. It’s because he is confident and brash and sexual and expressive. He is more fun to be around than your girlfriend. If you were to party with someone and you had to choose this boy or your girlfriend, the choice is obvious. The reason to stay with your girlfriend (or ultimately with whomever you may enter into a mature and truly long-term relationship with) is because parties don’t last very long and when they are over, we (most of us) want someone to go home to who we can trust. And this guy isn’t making any promises to anyone, it would seem.

More "Ask Anne" View Columnists

  • some random girl

    honestly while i think your girlfriend sounds like a safer option, if you are feeling attracted to this guy then it could potentially be a sign that either your feelings for your girlfriend are in decline or that you're maybe getting slightly bored, so obviously i can't make the right decision for you but there is the potential that if you stay with your girlfriend you will (especially seeing as you are in college) face other temptations not dissimilar to this guy so while I personally feel that this boy doesn't sound like good news to me you may want to think more about your relationship with your girlfriend. I'm not saying that because you've been tempted by this guy it means you don't have feelings for your girlfriend any more because obviously it's human nature to grow tired of thing/seek excitement and all that however I think for your sake it'd be worth thinking your relationship through anyways.

    good luck though and all the best.


  • Guy

    I found this discussion looking for some advice. I'm in a very similar situation except that it's my girlfriend who is starting to see a no-future party machine kind of guy while I'm home doing my homework. Been together for about 4 years to the month and she's still telling me she loves me after I caught her going to his house a few days ago. We've been talking circles with each other and she says she wants to try to work this out. Just weeks earlier we were talking of marriage and having children, all that serious future talk. Me being all upset with my highs and lows isn't helping. I do believe her that she sincerely wants to try to salvage our relationship, but I have the sinking feeling that she still secretly wants the other guy. This is all complicated by the fact that we live together, have been for 3+ years now. She has some depression/anxiety issues and is going to start seeing a doctor for it. Am I kidding myself. She thinks I'm convinced that her getting professional council will help. Now I either stay in this or kick her to the street. It's hard to make that choice when you've been so sure for so long.

  • Same Boat

    I'm in the same position. I stumbled upon your question looking for an answer to mine. The simple answr here is to follow your heart. Yes, I should take my own advice, but mine is a bit more complicated.

    I'm married. I've been with my husband for 15 years and I love him more than life itself. I have never so much as had an unpure thought for another man. But along came this guy and I can't seemto get my mind off him. I told my husband of my feelings and he told me that it's normal, but that I should, by no means, tell the guy how I feel. Stupid, stupid, stupid . . . I told. He then confessed and everything went down hill from there.

    I didn't cheat, or anything, but I became preoccupied withthis guy. I would fantasize about him day in and day out. I eventually had to listen to my heart.

    Long story short, if what you need is some excitement, tell your girlfriend and maybe you guys can do somethign to spice things up. Don't waste those years you've invested in with her for somethnig that isn't a sure thing (unless you're not looking for a sure thing). If, on the other hand, you just want to be with her anymore, please cut her loose. But first talk to her and be honest with her and tell her what's going on. You never know . . .

    Good luck!

  • Anonymous-1

    I am the girlfriend in a situation very similar to this. The other guy in mine is a confident jerk that has been proven to be a pathonlogical liar. He tells my boyfriend he is setting himself up for failure by still talking to me. My boyfriend and I have the greatest bond. We just live at opposite ends of the country right now. Being apart with the other guy there with him on a much more consistent bases then me and knowing that my boyfriend isnt sure of his feelings towards the boy but wont talk to me about it at all hurts me so much. A relationship can't work without honesty tell your girlfriend what you are feeling and why you are torn. Make a list of pro's and con's for the girl and the boy then compare the two. You have to follow your heart its possible you could be friends with one and date the other if you give yourself the chance to figure out what you want from both, and stay honest with everyone.

  • confused

    Oh god now im totally feeling this!I'm gay and ive been with my gf for about four years, everything seems to be okay till few weeks ago. Both my gf and I been working in this island on adn on for two years and last year (which was the second year) we went back to the island met more new friends and we ended up having a close bond with someone who in particular. Now she is straight, she's at least ten years older than both of us and she's very very attractive. Ive never felt this feeling before, i never chated or even think about any other girl beside my girl then the feeling of attractions turns to dreams then as we left this year things we're just sitll okay. And she seems to bonded more with me than with my gf. Somehow i felt connected. Then last month things became more obvious, it's like we're trying to send hints thing through, wiritng secret messages that only we understood, i mean i dont want to be sounding like Im getting the wrong message. I tried to ignore it, but my heart beats and long for this secrecy to continue.I love my gf so much but Ive developed this unwanted feeling towards this straight friend of mine. Then I thought i will just leave it to cool down so, we dint talk or chat online for a week or two then few days ago... it gets really intense and shes trying to tell few things that left me wondering. Im so confused... i dont wanna leave my gf but at the same time i dont want to forever thinking what if ........ i dont want to cheat either... i cant handle things feelings..its so uncontrollable... i tried to tell myself that she's straight and shes not attracted to me and theres no way that could happened either. and I do know that I sounded selfish... im so ashame and feel guilty towards my loving girlfriend but i cant stop this feeling.... and i dont want to ruin the friendship because of this either so... thank you for any advice back.

  • Same position cept i did choose the (op)

    I am in the same difficult postion, but its just gotten more complicated and more heartwrenching because I took the jump and went for the (op) other person.

    Couple months ago, my bf and i together for two years, decided he wanted a break while he went to jail for two weeks. He had made this rash decisioning before and the next day act like nothing happened & he was just trying to get a rise out of me game. Well, he did end up going to jail for two weeks, and I begain seeing someone that I was already being tempted by, I had felt the sexual tension building with this person before the breakup, but felt I was safe, because I had a bf. But once that was no longer an issue, nothing stopped us. And although I had not planned on this affair lasting longer than maybe the two weeks then getting back with my ex. Its has now been over two months, and of course by now my ex knows, and although he is hurt he agrees he did break up with me.

    What makes it so complicated now is that I still love my ex and know he still loves me, in fact he has realized he loves me even more now that theres a chance he might lose me. And I feel bad, and still plan to work things out with him. But this new attraction and excitement with this new guy, just hasn't gone away. I feel terrible about it with my ex, I've hung out with my ex several times and yes we also talk in circles trying come to some common ground.

    I just never planned on this new affair lasting long but it has, I just fear for how long? and how long will my ex be there for? I know its not a secure future relationship, but I know I need to get it out of my system or i will be with my ex, thinking about the other & that wont work, I still love my ex alot and want to work things out with him, but dont want to keep him dangling on a string like this, but dont want him to give up on us. Help

    SO confused???

  • Andrew

    Hi Anne:

    Your response was brilliant. You covered everything and put it in the perspective of this man's current phase of life.

    Life is all about choices, it seems. Some for the long run and some for the short run. Sometimes it takes maturity to see the big picture. You can't always have it all, all the time. We have to choose!

  • allie

    i think im in exactly the same situation and i am finding it really difficult because on one hand i love my boyfriend and we've been together for more than 5 years. then im working as a waitress to get thru college and one of the guys i work with is really hard-working, and always looks after me in every situation. my boyfriend is level-headed, mature but this guy is just yes spontaneous and so different to anyone i've ever met. i feel like there's something wrong with me that i'm even contemplating but i dont want to get married and then realise i wish i'd played the field a little more


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