Dear Just The Tips,
I’ve been dating the sweetest man I’ve ever met for five months. It’s been a first in many ways for me: the first time I’ve been really honest about my feelings each step of the way, the first time I’ve taken things slow and let the feelings emerge slowly. It’s also the first time I have truly felt safe with someone, have been entirely present during sex and have really allowed someone fully into my life. He’s also fuckin hot. And thoughtful. He’s a keeper, they tell me.
I love him, and I tell him that regularly, but I’m not sure I’m in love. And I wouldn’t be too worried about that, under normal circumstances. However, I recently found out that I’ll be moving across the country for work—and it’s forcing some decision-making in the relationship that I hadn’t anticipated quite so soon.
On the one hand, I could wear it like a loose garment—hey, dude, just come with, let’s go on this adventure, no promises, no regrets, might break up with you in six months, nbd. OR I could consider that I’m not sure I’m in love, and it’s probably best to just let this be what it was, a beautiful fun thing that went surprisingly well given my relationship history, and bounce out of here, onto another solo adventure, to conquer the new city I’ll descend upon, a woman in full (etc. etc.)
It doesn’t help that in my last move, two years ago, a love was lost and it was really painful for me, even though I had intended to have him move with me. And even though I am so glad I got out of that situation, my gut instinct is that young relationships don’t survive this kind of move.
The process has been good so far: we talked about it and I was blown away by how supportive of my career choices and decisions he was, without question, in addition to letting himself feel his feelings around it. It was actually such an impressive demonstration of character that it made me want to invite him along.
Do I listen to the little voice that wonders whether he’s really the one for me, the voice that judges him a lot, and has visions of the God I should settle down with instead? Or do I show up as a human who can’t have all the answers right now for someone I love so much and cannot stop touching and snuggling when I’m around him?
You’re the best for figuring this whole sitch out and taking it off my plate.
Pulling a Geographic
I write to you from my bed which I call “the office.”
This morning I woke up and hit snooze about four times and then rolled over to observe how the sun looked on the edge of the window sill. I went back to a dream I was having about Christmas and an octopus. I picked my nose. I drank some coffee. I read the New York Times headlines and replayed in my mind every moment I’ve set foot inside a Lindt Chocolate store.
It’s been an unremarkable morning so far and yet, it would have been radically different if there was somebody else here too.
We would probably have woken up at different times, perhaps to the sound of each other’s snores. One of us may have been rushing to a job. I would have made coffee for two. We may have had morning sex or a fight about who lost whose socks, and I never would have gotten around to reading the paper or, for that matter, writing to you.
Relationships change everything. They make us give up certain kinds of autonomy and freedom (i.e. the bliss of perfect solitude, never wearing pants) but they also bring us great joy and comfort (somebody who knows how to fix your vacuum cleaner and will do it for free; reliable sex; deep spiritual connection).
You say people are telling you that he’s a keeper but you are unsure. When you describe yourself apart from him you envision yourself as a “woman in full” on an “adventure.” It sounds to me like you’re thirsting for the kind of freedom that you’re not getting in this relationship. It is the freedom of ambition, adventure and ultimately, achievement. We often associate it with being single but it doesn’t have to exist only in that state.
From where I sit (in bed), it seems like you have a tremendous amount of power in this negotiation. That’s really lucky to be in the decision-making position: you’re not being coerced into a set of someone else’s bad choices. What’s also clear is that your partner’s input does not appear to be a fundamental part of your decision-making process (as in, you are moving regardless) and your partner doesn’t seem to have strong feelings in the matter either (which probably makes things harder, not easier).
You may or may not end up living with your BF, asking him to move with you or leaving him in the dust, but you must start by seeking out freedom within the context of your partnership. It is from there that you will address whether or not to move on with or without this beau. As far as your concern about how to “show up as a human who can’t have all the answers,” well dear, you’re already there.
Do a trial run.
Take some time apart. Depending on the kind of people you are, I’m going to suggest you start early, but if you’re more promiscuously inclined, skip ahead to step 5.
- Step 1: Go to a movie alone
Are your shoulders cold without someone to rub them? You are probably not ready to move to another coast alone. Are you happy no one next to you is checking their phone while you get a little teary at *The Hunger Games? Move on to Step 2.
- Step 2: Take a solo roadtrip.
Or do something else you usually do together by yourself. Whatever you chose, I do think it could be useful to feel what it’s like to do things alone. I for one have never survived a relationship that I wasn’t sure I could leave. How does it feel to temporarily leave this one?
- Step 3: Allow room for input.
From everything you’re saying so far, your boo is the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor in the movie of your life. That’s fine. But you do not seem to trust him to act autonomously and do the thing that he believes is right for him. Perhaps he’s giving you all that control in this moment or perhaps you’re taking it, but you need to step back and realize that he has the power to make a choice just as you do. What if he suggests moving to see you in a few months and getting a separate apartment for the first year? Maybe he thinks you could keep in touch long distance but sleep with other people. Relationship styles are customizable and negotiable.
- Step 4: Sleep with other people.
Historically, this doesn’t really “work” if you’re going for a monogamous partnership, but it can be informative. Does sleeping with somebody else make you wanna cry and die? Probably time to go back to your hottie. Does it feel interesting and exciting? Onwards! It doesn’t sound like you have a lot tying you to each other (kids, property etc.) so let yourself explore. As a friend of mine once said, “when it comes to decisions, you don’t know anything until you’re kissing.”
Ask your partner what they’d do on their own.
As I mentioned previously, it sounds like you feel quite alpha in this particular relationship. That can be a wonderful feeling. What does your partner dream of? Maybe his dream to be a professional bass fisherman will make you want abandon your plan and move to Florida with him where there are no seasons to test your relationship anyway!
Leave the past behind.
You mentioned that your last big move sabotaged your relationship. OK, fine. But do you regret moving? Is this situation the same one as your last? You must forgive yourself for that breakage. The situation may sound the same but the details have clearly changed.
Don’t be nice.
"Nice” is a four-letter word. I have never been nice and I never will be. Another buzzwod I can do without: “functional,” when applied to relationships. I’ve never even seen a functional relationship. Functioning is mechanical. A machine functions. Relationships don’t; rather they grow, destroy themselves, and are reborn.
I often think that we here in the modern USA do not allow ourselves to be as pissed off, unsure or mean as we truly are in the context of a relationship for fear of being “not nice” or “dysfunctional.” Fuck that. What are you actually feeling? Act on that and let your guy respond.
Don’t worry about being “in love.”
Susan Sontag described being “in love” as an addiction and insatiable demand for presence. She calls it a disease that is better “to have often rather than infrequently.” She also says that perhaps “it’s better always to be in love with several people at any given time.” I couldn’t agree with her more. The only way to be with a person is to constantly make the choice that they’re the person you want to be with. To do that you need to let yourself fall in love with other people, things, places. Your partner does not need to be the person you’re in love with at any given moment. Your partner is the person you want to cook dinner with really, really often and that you end up being in love with more often than most other people.
Shorten your timeline.
Here is what “right now” is to me:
the idle flick of a cigarette butt onto 2nd avenue
the smell of perfume and sweat on the subway
the feeling of a very high quality sweater
throngs of bodies gathered in protest
Here is what “the rest of our lives” is to me:
finding money for our kids’ education
Right now is sensual and impossibly sexy. There is nothing sexy about “the rest of my life.” Not to mention, every time I’ve started a “rest of my life” conversation in my own head, I realize I have sucked the air right out of the room—and the other people whom I am factoring into the equation. Relationships encompass both the short- and long-term, but if you worry too much about the future you’ll never enjoy the present.
Finally, I’d like to remind you that there is no limit to how great your life can be.
You seem almost ashamed at your hope that things—your relationship, the guy you’re with, your job—could be better. You’ll have setbacks, people will let you down and you will fall in and out of love, but there is no shame in hoping for a degree of perfection in your life. It is possible that you will never have to wear pants in the morning and find a deep spiritual connection with another human being. It is also possible that you’ll still be wearing leather pants while taking Metamucil.
Whatever you decide dear, do it because you’re hoping for something great, not for fear of something mediocre.
Just the Tips is Playboy.com’s weekly advice column, with professional matchmaker Katherine Cooper. Have a question for Katherine about sex, love or dating? Shoot her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.