Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s Power editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.
Last November, I accepted a job that will start in September in a city six hours away. Also last November I started dating an incredible guy… in the city I live in now. I want to start by saying that I have wanted this job for years and I am super stoked about it. BUT now I have fallen in love, by complete accident.
It’s only been three months, but it has become painfully clear to us both that we are head over heels. And it sucks. We’re definitely pretty young — I’m 22 and he’s 24 — but I have never had a relationship this healthy before. We communicate well, I’ve been introduced to his parents, and he’s met some of my chosen family. Dating him is fucking awesome, but I’m bummed about the future.
We decided pretty early on that we were not going to continue to pursue the relationship after I leave because at our ages, long distance doesn’t seem worth it to us. This has led to a lack of labels and exclusivity, which also have started to bum me out even though at this point the both of us are only seeing one another. We literally refer to the other as our “not boyfriend” and “not girlfriend.” But every day I spend with him I believe less and less in the decision to give this relationship an expiration date. His last relationship was three years long, with the final eight months of it long distance. He and his ex had an amicable breakup that came down to the fact that the distance was too difficult and not worth it to them. That break up happened about a year ago, and he is still fully against long-distance relationships.
I’m leaving town for good in July and I have no idea what to do. I know I love him, but I’m afraid to tell him because of the lack of "seriousness" we’ve attached to our relationship. Should I end the relationship now to protect myself from the impending heart break? Or do I continue to see him with the hope that he changes his mind about an LDR? What is the solution to this shitty situation, if there even is one?
Please help a fellow fuck-up that does not want to give up on the first good guy she’s been with.
The “Not Girlfriend”
Dear Not Girlfriend,
I had dinner with a good friend a couple of weeks ago, and we were discussing one of the fundamental differences between us. Namely, that she finds it difficult to the point of intolerable to confess romantic feelings she is not sure are reciprocated, whereas I am all too willing to debase myself on the off chance my affection might be returned. What I realized is that most people must at some point confront a choice when they realize they are in love — we must choose between dignity and certainty.
I am often envious of my dignified friend, who is not kept up at night by sudden and unbidden memories of the texts she sent, or the excuses proffered in return. She does not flush with embarrassment when it slowly dawns on her that “I’m not in a good place for a relationship” means “I will never be in a good place for a relationship with you.” By not going out on a limb, she does not have to carry with her the feeling of one cracking beneath you.
I have to live with that knowledge, which is terrible in its own way, but I still choose knowing every time, because not knowing will keep you up at night all the same, if only for different reasons. Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself since I’ve never figured out another way to be. I think you also want to know, and there is only one way to be certain.
Not wanting to be a long-distance relationship is a valid way for your not boyfriend to feel, but six hours away is not a different country, and you are not asking anything unreasonable. You love him, this relationship is good and nurturing and makes you happy, so you would like it to continue on new terms given how your feelings have developed. The beginning of a relationship is not a contract, and you are lying to both him and yourself if you continue pretending that what you said you wanted three months ago is what you want now.
So start being honest. It might be torture to learn that he is quite happy for this relationship to have a expiration date, but you are clearly torturing yourself now by existing in this sort of limbo. There is so much that the world denies us, don’t deny yourself a chance to have what you want.
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