The Vine: June 23, 2010
I've been in a committed relationship with someone we'll call "Kim" for 3 years. For the last 2 years of that time, Kim and I have lived in different cities because of various school- and work-related issues.Soon, she is moving back to the city where I live; we have signed a year-long lease for our first apartment together.
Once she moved back everything was supposed to be great. I was excited and happy to have her back in this city and to end the long-distance thing we've been doing for so long.
The problem I'm having is that I met someone this year — I guess we'll call her "Dana" — who has come to mean a lot to me. We got along well from the beginning, and circumstances meant that we ended up spending a good deal of time together and becoming quite close. I should mention at this point that she is also in a long-term relationship, and lives with her partner.
Recently, things came to a point where Dana and I had to admit that we have some pretty intense feelings for each other. We recognized the need to move past these feelings, but things took a turn and we ended up sleeping together. We haven't seen each other since, and neither of us have told our partners what happened.
In a matter of days I am moving in with Kim, and I have no idea what I need to do. I care so deeply for Kim, and value the relationship that we've built over the last 3 years. Nonetheless, I can't stop thinking about Dana, and I'm having trouble making myself even want to. She feels the same way, which just makes it more difficult. I'm terrified and guilty and increasingly desperate.
I'm not asking for sympathy; I know what Dana and I did was wrong. I just need advice on how to move forward because I don't know what to do. I can't see outside of my own feelings at this point.
Guilty and confused
For starters, you say everything came to a head (so to speak) (sorry) recently, so give yourself a little time to process. Yes, you screwed up, but as my dad once said, if you don't know what to do in a given situation, take a minute and do nothing. Sit with it. This isn't to punish yourself, but to figure out why it happened.
"We developed strong feelings for –" Yes, so you said. Why? Because Kim went away and you felt: what? Lonely; abandoned; stuck in a rut; saddled with the responsibilities of a serious relationship, but none of the on-site privileges? None of these things, no combination of them, is a wrong answer, or makes you a bad person — you may have acted on certain feelings in a destructive way, but since you can't undo that, you have to figure out why you did do it and address the underlying issues.
Do not tell Kim anything, at least for the time being. Do not see Dana, or speak to her, unless it's to tell her that, you know, you really can't see her or speak to her until you figure your shit out with your girlfriend. Sit with it. Look at your letter and see what might jump out at a third party vis-Ã -vis what you saw fit to include — that another transition in the relationship is approaching. That you committed to a year-long lease with Kim. That you may, without fully realizing it, feel aggrieved and/or trapped. That you may have felt out of control in the situation, and you unconsciously did this in order to feel like you existed.
Not to treat Dana like a cipher here; I'm sure she has much to recommend her. I'm just saying, you've told me about the situation with Kim, but not much about Kim herself — you care about her, you value what you've "built," but you don't use the word "love." Do you just not want to start all over with someone else? Again, that isn't wrong, and the prospect of wriggling out of a lease and dealing with the fallout is unattractive at best, but if that's what you would do in a perfect world, you need to deal with that desire.
My dad is wise, so take that minute. Make some lists. Tell yourself the truth about what you would do if you could — if money or courage or pain were no object. Be honest with yourself about who your first call was in the last six months. You can't move forward if you don't know, and sort out, what got you here in the first place.
All the recent cat questions made me wonder about your opinion on a cat/boyfriend issue. I've always had cats and dogs growing up, and currently I have one cat but no dog, because cats are easier when you live alone.
I also have a super fantastic boyfriend. We've talked about moving in together in the future. Except he's very allergic to cats and most allergy medicines make him sick.
Now, being so super fantastic, he is willing to endure the allergies and sickness from the medication. But he also feels that once my cat passes away, we won't get another one and just stick with dogs. Of course, that's all reasonable and understandable. But the thought of never having another cat makes me sad.
Would you be okay with never getting a new cat? Is my thinking about something so in the future mean that I'm not ready for this stage of a relationship and all the compromises that go along with it?
On the contrary — I think thinking about that something means you're taking your future with Mr. Super Fantastic seriously and preparing yourself for those compromises down the road.
I myself would not consider not getting another cat. No judgments if that's your decision; I might have thought differently about it 10 or 15 years ago. But I grew up with cats, I've always had cats, and I could try to make it work with just a dog — I really like dogs — but I couldn't resign myself to no more cats ever.
I don't think it's out of line for you to feel sad at the prospect of a cat-less future; compromises don't always mean that everybody wins. Maybe Mr. SF would agree to consider a period of feline-free living, and revisit the issue later, perhaps when air-purifier machines and/or allergy medication has evolved in his favor somewhat. If he won't, you may have to content yourself with visiting friends with cats, and if that's enough for you, that's great. And if that's not enough for you, that's okay too. Just keep an open mind and keep talking about it.
As I was reading some of the advice questions in the recent Vines, I was wondering: after ten years of doing this, what would be your favourite points of advice?Do you have any words of wisdom that you think are sort of unifying themes for the Vine? I guess "25 and Over" captures a fair few items, but I think that there are definitely some recurring themes that come up in your general Vine advice, and I'd love to read your thoughts on what they are.
What's your number-one idea or helpful thought about how to conduct friendships, relationships, pet ownership, or wedding plans? What are your best tips on managing anxiety, money, procrastination or boredom? Have your views on things changed over the years?
I realise this is an incredibly broad question, or request for rumination, but if the Anni-Vine-Sary had prompted you to reflect on anything like this, I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I'm sure other readers would too. Alternatively, want to give us a "30 and Over"?!
Thanks again for answering so many of our questions.
…My number-one idea or helpful thought. Yeesh. I stared at this question, walked around a little, dealt with a couple of other chores, and hoped something both broader and more incisive than my first thought would occur to me, but my first thought is the best I can do, so:
"What is actually going on here?" It's what I like to try to figure out in every letter: the root of the problem, the real issue. I give variations on the same advice over and over, it's true — "friendships have a lifespan," "there's what should be, and there's what is," "identify what you can control and let the rest go" — but the only phrase that applies to all the various problems is "what is actually going on here."
And that's various problems, of course. People don't tend to write into The Vine all, "Just lettin' ya know, everything's going great!" (Well, that one time, but: girl, please.) It can apply to general conduct, too — how we treat our animal companions, what we put into our friendships, whether it's important to write thank-you notes — because what's actually going on in each case is, respectively, that pets are not décor, friendship is a two-way street, and courteous behavior is a net gain even if our preferred specifics vary.
My views on things have changed over the years, in the sense that I no longer my feel that my views are awesome by definition, but are merely my views, which make a certain sense to me and which I hope others share. (Excepting, of course, anti-social-conservative views. Shut up, Defense of Marriage Act.) I mentioned this in the comments thread of the "Anni-Vine-sary" entry, that The Vine is (…I hope) more about the shades of grey than when it started. I mean, I like ranting about chain mail and pinko shoplifting as much as the next guy, but everyone has neuroses and everyone fucks things up now and then. A punchline is not that important in context.
Off the top of my head, my favorite thing I ever said, I think, was something along the lines of "Just because somebody hands you a bag of rocks doesn't mean you have to carry it."
And if I could go back and do one thing differently, I would have switched to a comments format years earlier. The column functions so much better with that community feeling (and hand-coding the Ask The Readers responses was a pain in my dupa, I will not lie).
And you're very welcome. Thank you for reading.
Tags: boys (and girls) cats meta shut up Prop 8 and all the others like you