My long-distance boyfriend wants commitment, but I want to stay free.
by Cait Robinson
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Dear Miss Information,
I recently entered a long-distance relationship with an amazing, caring guy. We share the same interests in nearly everything, we have the same sense of humor — all that good stuff. He's definitely someone I want to keep around for a long time. (Plus, he looks like Ryan Gosling.) Here's the problem: when he told me he wanted to be in a relationship, he made it clear that it was okay if I slept with other people. He knew I had a fuck buddy and said he was cool with it, even within a relationship. I was so relieved to know that I wouldn't have to sacrifice some of my physicality for the relationship. Of course, I gave him the same go-ahead, and everything was fine.
A couple of days ago, he told me that as his feelings are getting stronger for me, he is becoming less and less comfortable with the idea of me sleeping with other people. But he told me that no matter how much it bothers him, he won't ever try to control me or get me to stop. In his own words, "Whatever makes you happy, I will try to learn to be okay with." But how can I keep going if I know it makes him so unhappy? He has yet to have sex with anyone else. It's clear that I'm much more open to the idea of relationships like this than he is. I feel like I've been lied to, or even guilt-tripped.
On one hand, I understand where he is coming from. Feelings change and intensify, and I can't force him to be comfortable with open relationships. On the other hand, this is a long-distance relationship! I have a fuck buddy who will satisfy my physical needs, because I won't always be able to have that with my boyfriend. He already gave me the okay, so I feel like it's unfair to go back on his word. I know he will never serve me an ultimatum, but I still feel like I've been given one anyway. I really enjoy having a fuck buddy and I don't want to hurt my boyfriend. What should I do?
— Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Dear Rock and a Hard Place,
Ah, the old "I will try to learn to be okay with." Have sexier words ever been spoken? Put it on a banner trailed behind a plane! That is true love! Oops, kidding. That's not love. That's affection mixed with fear of rejection, and it's kind of sad in its self-negation. You are spot-on in your assessment that it feels like the rules have changed, because they have; he told you he needs changes, but he didn't have the confidence to back it up. The get-out-of-jail-free card of "do what you want and I'll eventually be okay!" is surely well-intentioned, but absolutely cannot be taken at face value. He wants monogamy. If you can't give it to him, then this situation won't work. He'll be jealous and miserable (but he'll keep it to himself! Totally healthy, don't worry!) and you'll be wracked with guilt any time you sleep with someone else.
He told you what he wants, even if he put in a little extra padding. Now you need to figure out what you want. Is the Ryan Gosling-with-a-heart-of-gold enough for you? Or is the short-term gratification of the fuck buddy more important? Him bringing up his feelings is, essentially, an ultimatum, in that no caring person would completely ignore him while they chased the status quo. So it sounds like your options here are either to be in a monogamous, long-distance relationship, or to be an unfettered single gal. Either option is legitimate as long as it's genuine. The only way you can mess up is by forcing your boyfriend to go along with a relationship he isn't comfortable with, with an extra pressure not to talk about it.
Dear Miss Information,
On the internet, you can find plenty of advice detailing what to do if you find yourself with a toxic friend. But what if you are the toxic friend, and you keep losing your friends? No one tells us what to do.
I'm aware I can get needy and I do tend to be negative. I'm actively working on changing habits and attempting to be more positive. But, really, it feels like people just don't give me a chance.
Here's my problem: one of my very close friends is no longer speaking to me. I shared a secret of this friend's with his brother. Why I did it is complicated, but I was angry because of other issues in our friendship. After I realized telling a secret was a big no-no, I was in constant fear whenever I saw my friend. His brother took his time, but it eventually got to my friend I spilled his secret. I only know this, however, because he has stopped speaking to me. And it makes sense.
This happened eight months ago. I've texted my friend, called him, and finally apologized to him in a long-winded email. (We don't live in the same city, so communication is limited.) I've gotten no response from my friend or his brother. I get that I did something wrong, but why won't my friend talk to me? I mean, can't there be at least a conversation to try to solve this? I think eight months is a long enough cooling-off period.
— Toxic Friend Guy
Dear Toxic Friend,
You apologized as best as you could, and it sounds like both your friend and his brother have refused to accept that apology. That is a difficult fact to swallow, for sure, but you need to acknowledge their decision and move on. Nothing you do or say will "make" them come around. If they do it, they will do it on their own terms.
A letter like this is bound to involve a lot of speculation on my part, because I can't make judgments about your personality. However, I do notice a lot of victimization in your tone. You feel like nobody gives you a chance; you acknowledge your transgression without really discussing the hurt it may have caused; you feel like eight months is an adequate cooling-off period (with an implied, "what's their problem for not accepting my apology?"). It's great you recognize what you did wrong and are trying to fix it — the only problem is that you seem to be turning this whole story back on yourself.
This is not a lecture to you, though; we all fuck up royally, and have to piece things together in the aftermath. It's human. How we grow out of these occasions is what matters. You are doing the right thing by owning up to your mistakes and trying to make amends. Bonus kudos for focusing on self-improvement. Now I encourage you to follow through. Toxicity is not a fixed feature: it is an amalgam of traits that you can change. Don't try to do it alone. Enlist help in your growth by finding a good therapist. I suspect that these "toxic" actions are coming from a place of hurt in you, rather than some personality flaw. Start untangling those knots. Once you start relating to yourself with more kindness, you'll find that it extends to others.