Cold feet, warm mouse on July 20, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
OK, BG. I’m taking the plunge. I’ve never done this before. I’m an advice lady virgin. But I’m so confused, I’m about to start eating with my elbows.
My boyfriend has as all the basics, the ones that matter. He’s kind, caring, giving, sensitive, mad about me. And he’s moving far, far away. He wants me to follow him. The living with him part sounds good and relaxing and safe to me, it feels like it would take the long distance pressure off us. Part of me really wants to give this relationship that chance. I’ve been toying seriously with the idea of following him.
Now, suddenly, I’ve started flirting with someone else, let’s call him Mike, via email. I know I’m flirting, although I did mention to Mike that I have a boyfriend. I have never met Mike. Repeat: Never met. This pathetic schoolgirl crush is entirely intellectual and virtual. But, at this point, I get more actual reality butterflies in my stomach from seeing this other person’s email address in my Inbox than from seeing my boyfriend show up on my doorstep. We’ve only been dating a year. I do love him. But shouldn’t we still be in the mooshy, if not butterfly, stage?
Or rather, shouldn’t I still be in that stage? My boyfriend is ready to marry me. Since I know that I’m desperately afraid of commitment, that the idea of moving is freaking me out, part of me thinks that the crush is just an expression of angst. At the same time, I have some sort of brainiac connection with Mike that I don’t have with my boyfriend. We seem to be almost too alike. (Note, although the kind of intense flirty missives started recently, we’ve been corresponding on and off for almost a year).
Mike himself is a wild card. I don’t know if in person he’d actually be someone I would want to date. I don’t even really know if he’s flirting with me or if we’re just having a cool conversation. I’m not sure it matters. He strikes me as a symbol of what I feel is missing in the relationship I’m in.
I’m usually the advice-giver, BG, but this has me stumped. I can’t tell if I’m about to sell myself short by settling, or if I’m about to throw away the person who loves me most in the world for a false hope of something better. I feel like no matter what I do, I’m going to be doing something stupid. I’ve fallen for brainiac jerks before, and gotten burned. I know I have a penchant for the self-absorbed type. But with this correspondence, I feel like I’ve found someone who understands me, and challenges me. Is that challenge important, when it comes to love? Or is someone who would do anything for you more important?
You are actually on the right track here — in terms of articulating exactly what’s at stake, if not deciding exactly what to do. Couldn’t have done it better myself, except for one thing: you are clear, right, that this is not about deciding between Boyfriend and Mike? Even if you do wind up with Mike sometime in the next millennium, that is not the point here. In that sense, your situation is similar to that of Torn, above. It’s no accident that the “intense flirty missives” (vs. the rest of your year-long correspondence) started recently. You’ve got this chance — pressure, even — to take your relationship to the next level (as in, across the country); so no wonder you’re starting to hear the floorboards creaking in the level it’s on. And Mike’s presence/correspondence is indeed giving you insight into what might be in need of repair/replacement. Do be circumspect, however: it’s also easy to see why cyberlove could appear so clean, strong, and pure in the face of IRL hair-on-the-soap and cap-off-the-toothpaste love/cohabitation..
Well, actually, there’s something else that’s bugging me. Now, I generally don’t like to read between the lines of these letters; people tend, whether they realize it or not, to come right out and tell me what I need to know. And normally, what I would do with your letter is help you whittle down what you’ve already said so that you have sharper tools with which to make your own decision. Still, I can’t help but notice something in — or, rather, not in — your letter that’s keeping me from keeping my mouth shut. It’s this: your description of your current relationship is very one-sided, distant, passive, tepid, vanilla (store brand, not Haagen Dazs). It’s like, “He’s great on paper, but…” It sounds a bit like you want to give this relationship the old college try because…it’s been a while since college and you’re starting to feel old. It sounds like you’re thinking of leaving here with him because.. he’s there. I mean, you lament the prospect of losing “the person who loves [you] most in the world,” “someone who would do anything for you.” But aren’t you the subject of any of these sentences? Correct me if I’ve misread here, but if not, it’s this , not Mike, is what most gives me pause about your moving. So before you go check your inbox for butterflies, reread your own letter to me again. It — not Mike’s missives — may contain all your answers.