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Author Topic: Need some perspective on LDR
safe_sex_for_all
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Hi everyone I'm hoping some people can give me some perspective on the long distance relationship I am in currently. I'm not sure if I'm looking to make a change now but could use some help thinking things through since I've gone over this many times myself. Now I will probably write a short novel here so anyone who can get through it would be greatly appreciated.

I've been in a relationship with a wonderful guy for the last 3 years. It started my senior year of high school and I am now a junior in college, we live about 5 hours apart. I live at college and he lives in my hometown where he as a good job as a mechanic. My concerns are with the fact that our paths in life may be too different to reconcile.

I intend to go to graduate school for my phd which will more than likely take me another 6-7 years. I could go to grad school where I am for undergrad already but since I intend to stay in academia (hopefully as a professor) and would like to teach at my current undergrad school it is advised I go away for grad school. If I don't go to a new school for graduate studies then I would likely need to move after finishing to teach somewhere else for at least a few years with the ultimate goal of returning. In short that means I have to move at least two more times before I can settle somewhere. Now my boyfriend does not particularly like change and if we do have a future together will not move to wherever I am until I am settled, he says he only wants to move once and be done. I understand this, but it leaves us in a LDR for 7-8 more years and I'm not sure I can handle that. On top of that if I stay in academics as I intend to I worry that I will have to go manage all academic functions (dinners, conferences, lectures, maybe even travel for research) alone. It's not that he isn't supportive, it is simply that he doesn't believe he will fit in well at these sort of events.

So, those are the big issue, continued distance and my career choice, which wouldn't be huge issues if there weren't so many other little things. Maybe I'll just make a list of pros and cons to make this easier. Let me make this clear that some of these are very trivial things but when all added up they start to get to me.

cons: very different interests, he has horrible grammar, spelling and uses words in the wrong way all the time, he cannot eat quietly, chews with his mouth open and smacks his lips (I can't eat with him without a tv on), he thinks anti-depressants are horrible and counseling is just crap (which is a huge deal for me because both have been very helpful in my life), pretty bad money management skills, horrible at cleaning his house and I don't mean just messy which i can handle I mean truly dirty, tried but doesn't really seem to get it why things have to be semi-clean to keep my allergies under control and enable me to breathe, has a horrible sense of time and is late to more or less everything, and finally we have differing political views (voted for McCain) but actually that's probably one of the most minor issues.

on the pro side: he very much loves me, I do love him, we are very sexually compatible and have great communication when it comes to this, he does try to work through my concerns with me (although often epicly fails and dismisses my concerns as clingy), his family is great and really cares about me, my family likes him but is not quite as attached, he supports me in school unconditionally, works very hard at his job and does excellent work, he is intelligent though in a different way from me, tries to visit as often as possible (this goes both ways), takes care of our very cute jointly owned pets, and we've been through some really tough times and worked through them together including family deaths, me moving away, parents separating, and some other major life events.

All in all it's a pretty good relationship but I'm just not sure if I'm fooling myself into thinking these issues will work themselves out. The big issues of distance and career I think could work themselves out but the question is how willing am I to do that if there are all these little things? I don't honestly expect him to change and that's OK I just need help figuring out if I can live with the more minor problems if I stick it out through the bigger ones. What do you all think?

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Onionpie
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hey, safe_sex_for_all, I'm sorry to hear you're having such a hard time with this! I totally understand how bad grammar and spelling can get on your nerves. I myself am a huge grammar nut, and actually refuse to keep up regular contact with people (on msn/IM only, I mean) who are really bad with that. It just hurts my brain too much to try and deal with it [Razz]

Although this is totally your decision and I'm not going to tell you what to do, there are just a few things I feel the need to point out. First off, you mention that he doesn't try very hard at all to keep his house clean, even though you have expressed to him that this causes your allergies to act up. Either he's incredibly obtuse (which you said yourself he isn't) and just doesn't understand the concept of how intense dirtiness affects allergies, or he just doesn't care enough about it to bother making an effort. Which I think is a pretty big deal. If he doesn't bother to be at least a bit more cleanly to take care of your health...? That's pretty selfish and uncaring of him, I'd say.

Another thing that really jumped out at me is this:
quote:
(although often epicly fails and dismisses my concerns as clingy)
I think that no matter how much he may seem try to work through your concerns with you, if he then dismisses it as being "clingy", then that is extremely disrespectful, and once again sounds like he just doesn't care enough. It's very unfair of him to just dismiss and belittle your concerns like that, and you should at the very least have a serious talk with him about it.

I'd also like to say that although going through some tough times together really can make you emotionally close, I don't think it should really be a reason to consider staying close with someone. I know how much more attached you can feel after getting through some major events together, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing; but if the relationship isn't working, or the person is not a good person, it's not a reason to stay together. It's likely that ANY partner you're with for a significant amount of time will go through some kind of major life event with you, so it shouldn't be thought of as a reason to stick with it, though I know how hard it is to let that idea go (I've had a few problems with that in my own relationships).

Anyway, in my opinion this doesn't sound like the greatest or most caring partner to be with. However, who knows if you could get through 7-ish more years of LDR. If you feel you want to and it's worth it to you, then for sure go ahead with it [Smile] I have to head off now, but if you want to talk more, another volunteer will be around the boards to talk [Big Grin]

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safe_sex_for_all
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Such tough questions to figure out.

About the cleaning and allergies, the thing is he does try he tries to vacuum and change sheets before I show up, but his idea of clean is no where near mine. He also has a huge dog that sheds horribly (it was his grandma's who died so he can't get rid of it especially just because of me since I'm around so rarely). So this definitely bugs me but I've encountered so much lack of sympathy/understanding for allergies I just deal with it. My mom has horrible allergies too and my dad has never seemed to get what the big deal is. This sounds a bit like I'm trying to justify this behavior, but I'm not just trying to work through whether it is something I can live with or not.

Now the dismissing my concerns as clingy is something that I do find very disrespectful and when I point that out he does apologize, this is a relatively new thing so if it continues then it is definitely going to be a huge problem.

We have pretty major talks about these issues but sometimes I feel like the distance makes it hard to actually resolve anything. I also expect a whole lot when it comes to communication in my relationships whether they are boyfriends, friends or roommates. I'm not sure how reasonable my expectations are for 20-something-year-olds. My communication skills were learned primarily through years of counseling in high school and I realize that many adults don't even have the skills to communicate in a respectful way that validates feelings. I suppose one positive for him might be that he has become better with communication in the last three years.

I understand what you're saying about tough times can make you emotionally close but this isn't always a reason to stay together. I guess I just feel like my life is so enmeshed with his that it would be so difficult to untangle I'm just not sure if I'm up for it. Although obviously this will only get more difficult with time.

Definitely some very good points, and I appreciate any feedback. There is a lot of good in this relationship but also a decent amount of bad (or at least things that need working on).

I suppose one of the big decisions I have to make is how much work is this relationship worth? I could certainly move on but issues come up in every relationship so staying and working might be the best option, of course some thing never work out so I'll have to decide if this is one of them.

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Ecofem
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Hey safe_sex_for_all,

In addition to the points Onionpie brought up, I'd like to mention some things that struck me.

First, I do recognize the positives you've mentioned and I'm happy to hear them. I'm going to focus on the challenges because they are what's making you wonder, I think. Only you and your boyfriend are in the relationship so I can only give you my perspective without being there or really knowing either one of you really wants or needs or prefers, so you can reflect on my points but please do what seems right to you. [Smile]

I find it very problematic that he does not believe in counseling. I mean, sure, he can say it's not for him but to say he's against it when you've done it for so long and it's been such an important (and good!) part of your life, it seems, well, disrespectful to me.

As for the professor thing and attending academic functions alone, that's always something that may be the case, if you were single, if your partner were sick or had to work or just didn't feel like going that night... HOWever that seems very important to you, that it's really more about not feeling like you have a partner who can attend this functions with you and that can be a very big deal.

As for the bad manners and all, to each his own but this stuff bothers you and you can take it or leave it but it's really not going to change. Same for cleanliness, money-managing skills, etc. You can take it or leave it but they will not change, especially when you've had three years to get to know each other. And when you're living together, those challenges tend to get really magnified. Would you want to live with him if you could be in the same location with all those frustrations? I do understand his not wanting to move and I also see you not wanting to be apart for so long. But you don't have to decide now but just see if that feels right to you two?

Partners whose careers seem worlds apart CAN and do work but it really depends on the people and what they're wanting and finding in each other. It just seems that while you appreciate your shared history, you're worried about your futures not working out. Again, you don't have to decide now but you could certainly talk about it. I don't see career/class differences here being the issues as much as just big personality differences and lifestyles differences as well as a certain lack of respect in some regards. Relationships do take work in that you need to work on communication, etc. which you know BUT they need not be work-work, you know? Like where one of you gets frustrated all the time and the other is always getting saddled with a to-do life improvement list? I hear you love and care about him but do you really like him, like if you were to get to know him now as he is and how you are, would you still want to date him or start a relationship?

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Onionpie
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hey, safe_sex_for_all, I'm back! [Big Grin] I'd just like to say that you sound like an extremely intelligent person, and you're dealing with this with a LOT of maturity! I admire you [Smile]

Ok, so if he really is trying and just has a different concept of what is "clean", I understand; my brother is like that, sigh. What I suggest though, since this IS a question of your health, which is pretty important, obviously... have a talk with him about maybe specific things he could do that help more. Like dusting (thoroughly) and wiping down counters and things. And what I find works with my brother is SHOWING the person just how thoroughly you mean. So maybe next time you're over, be like "THIS is what I mean by CLEAN" and scrub a bit and then make him try until you're satisfied [Razz] Do you think he'd respond well to that?

I understand that the distance can make communication, and particularly serious talks, more difficult; but good communication is important in any relationship, and I think it's particularly crucial in a long distance one. And if it feels like the communication just isn't good enough or isn't working out, then it's very possible that that relationship/relationship model just isn't working for you. And from what I can tell, you're an excellent communicator, but I wonder how good your boyfriend is with it? Do you yourself think he has the level of skill in communication necessary for really being able to keep up a LDR?

And I don't think it's a bad thing to have pretty high standards when it comes to communication, as it plays such an important part in relationships. And I say, don't settle. Don't relax your standards because you think you'll find nobody your age who meets them; I promise you there IS someone out there with the communication skills you're looking for [Big Grin] I think it's totally reasonable to have high standards for communication in relationships with people of ANY age! And if you feel a friend, boyfriend, roommate, or whoever, doesn't live up to those standards; it's a totally valid reason to end or change the relationship.

And I really hear you on the point about it feeling like you're so enmeshed with the other person's life that it feels like it'd be just way too difficult to untangle yourself. I was, in fact, feeling exactly the same way just a week or so ago [Razz] But you're right, it WILL get harder with time, as you get more and more enmeshed, as you put it (awesome word, by the way). I think that if at any point you really feel like it has to end for one reason or another (or many) and it just isn't going to get any better, untangling yourself is just what you're going to HAVE to do, no matter how ridiculously hard or impossible it feels. If it's necessary, you just have to do it whether you feel up for it or not, I guess. Because if you don't, and just stay in the relationship even though you feel it's not working, it'll be worse for the both of you; it means you won't be moving on, and it'll make it harder the longer you stay. Do you feel like you'd be able to do that untangling if it was really necessary?

So I say, if you feel the bad/things that need working on just aren't getting better, or are just too much for you to be satisfied with, then move on; but if you feel the problems can and ARE being fixed, and the relationship satisfies you enough, stay. It's really about you and what feels right for you. [Smile]

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vshanti
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Hi safe_sex_for_all!

I wanted to chime in because I empathize with your situation; I've been in an LDR (7 hours by plane!) for the past two years, and I know how difficult it can be to communicate through all that distance. You seem like an incredibly articulate, intelligent person, and I think it's great that you place so much emphasis on communication in your personal relationships. I wish more people did! I don't think it's an unreasonable thing to expect, even though you are in your 20s, since it's something that is important to you. Requiring that any partner you have in your life needs to be able to communicate with you in a way that is respectful and validates feelings seems like a pretty reasonable and healthy request to me.

Have you talked to your partner about these concerns? Like you said, you can't assume that your partner will change over time, so you need to decide if you are comfortable staying with him as-is. To be frank, though, he doesn't sound very supportive of you. He doesn't take precautions to prevent your allergies, and he won't support your career by moving or accompanying you to academic functions. These are pretty big things, and I doubt that these issues will go away over the long term.

You know your situation best, but from the outside, it sounds like you aren't feeling great in your current relationship and are looking for validation so that you can end it. I hope that isn't too harsh; I just wanted to be as honest as possible!

I wish you the best of luck [Big Grin]

--------------------
Vanessa

I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe...
I do, I do, I do.


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safe_sex_for_all
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Alright lets see if I can respond to everything in an organized comprehensible way.

ecofem: Thank you for recognizing the positives, I will do whatever is right for me in the end but the feedback here really helps me think through what is important and needs to change vs. what I can live with.

About the counseling, he has been supportive of me being in counseling, he used to drive me to appointments when I lived back in my hometown and wait to drive me back home. So he isn't opposed to counseling for me but is for himself. Now I can respect that to a certain extent but I do think if I'm ever to commit to a relationship (probably not marriage I have some ethical problems with that) even living together I would like some pre-commitment counseling. In my experience counselors (at least the good ones I've had) have a good way of bringing up things that might never come up until they are a problem and helping work through those issues. I also want to know that if I am committing to a relationship that if some major issue comes up my partner and I will both be willing to seek outside help. Some issues are just too big to deal with alone.

Onto the issue of attending academic functions alone. I actually see this as both a positive and a negative, I like being independent in my education and I would happily attend most things alone. I just want there to be some common interest or at least common friends. This is probably not one of the bigger issues only because I have done so well in school on my own so far. It has actually been a real positive for me to have a LDR when it comes to school work. It gives me the chance to focus when I'm here alone but relax when I have a weekend with him.

Now the poor manners are a much more annoying issue that is OK now because we see so little of each other, but it would probably make me crazy if I lived with him. This is one that he would probably honestly try to improve on if I asked (I'm not sure how successfully) and he isn't as bad if we are in other company, but alone it is awful. Bad table manners and loud eating, however, are one of my major pet peeves to the point where I even have a hard time eating with my mom because her jaw sometimes pops when she chews through no fault of her own. I might be slightly unreasonable about this but not entirely out of line :-).

The money management skills are a matter of learning (a bit like communication) and I will say he has become significantly better and does ask for advice occasionally. I do think I have very high expectations for this also, however, because I was brought up with really excellent money management skills. For now this isn't a huge issue as we have no joint finances (except for our fuzzy pets) but will be a major future issue if we were to live together. It isn't unresolvable but will certainly be difficult.

At the moment this relationship feels like a whole lot of work that may not be worth it, however, while that is true at the moment it hasn't always been true and may not be true once I figure out some major life decisions regarding school and career. I really appreciate your distinction between love and like, this is something I have said many times before "I really love you but right now I don't really like you." Most of the time I both love and like my boyfriend but those times that I don't are the difficult ones.

Thanks for all the awesome advice. I'll be responding to the other posts in a few hours but right now I have to get to class, Spanish, ick.

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safe_sex_for_all
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Oh boy, I really am writing out a novel here aren't I?
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Ecofem
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Heya! It's good to hear from you and no worries about writing a novel... this is a detailed topic but you're doing a great job of explaining it concisely and well. I am just stopping by quickly tonight to let you know that I've read your response, have been thinking about it, and hope to reply tomorrow. [Smile]
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LondonBlue
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Hi safe_sex_for_all! I am just jumping in here mid-discussion...you sound a lot like me (academia! woo!) and I'm also in an LDR so I thought I'd chime in. I think everyone has covered most of the issues at hand pretty well so far, so I don't have a whole lot to add.

One thing I did want to suggest was that--if you find yourself feeling confused or lost in this complicated system of issues you're analyzing--maybe you should try to zoom out and keep it a bit simpler. I don't think a few things a guy does that are great or terrible can add up mathematically to a Yes or No on a relationship; what I think is more valuable to evaluate here is how YOU feel about the relationship. I don't want to sound glib, but it might help to try a simple question: Do you want to be in this relationship right now? If that doesn't have a simple answer, that's totally fine. But I think it's a valuable angle to take in figuring all this out. I don't put a lot of stock in trying to plan for many years in the future relationship-wise. If you want to be with him now but you fear it won't work in the future, stay with him and cross that bridge when you get there. If you aren't really enjoying being with him now, it doesn't matter what it could eventually be like, or what it's been in the past--you just don't feel like it at this moment in your life and it's not working for you.

Please don't think I'm saying this is an easy dilemma. I totally have been where you are, questioning the things my boyfriend does that get on my nerves, wondering if we would be good together as spouses or parents, wondering whether our careers would clash in the future, wondering if the LDR was worth it. It's a tough, complex web of positive and negative feelings. But for me, it has always boiled down to the simple fact that I love him and I don't want to be apart from him; whatever our relationship implies about our future, whatever small things he does that I find offensive or annoying, the bigger answer is Yes, I want to be with him. That's enough for me at this point--everything else can be worked through.

And don't be afraid to answer No. As someone else noted, it seems like you might be looking for justification to break up with him; you don't sound entirely thrilled with the relationship at the moment. If you still feel that you want to be with him, that dissatisfaction becomes a mere rut to work through; but if you're sticking with it because of what you think the relationship might become in the future, I'm not sure that's a solid investment of your emotions.

This is all for you to consider. Again, I don't want to sound like I'm dismissing the whole problem. But in light of all the complicated weights on either side of this thing, I thought taking a fresh, simple angle on it might help you out.

Good luck--I'm sorry you're going through this rough time. [Smile]

PS: One thing I forgot to mention is that it would probably help you--whatever your decision ends up being--to let some time go by and really let your thoughts sink in. You may have already been considering this for a long time, but I know how it is to be frustrated with my boyfriend and have that feeling coincide with a realization that our future might not work out. Suddenly it looks like we should break up. But if I give it some time--a couple weeks, something like that--I always end up realizing that it was a momentary blip and I wasn't seeing the whole picture. If it is really time for you to end this relationship, after those few weeks you will probably be even surer of your decision than you are now. So let it ruminate! [Smile]

[ 11-14-2009, 12:01 AM: Message edited by: LondonBlue ]

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Ecofem
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Hey safe_sex_for_all,

I'm back with a longer (but actually quite short) answer. Thank you for sharing the additional details. To me, the question really is not so much "Do I want a long-distance relationship with him" but "Do I want a relationship with him?" What this all comes down to are some pretty substantial lifestyle differences; I don't think it's so much about his versus your profession but personalities and lifestyles. To make a relationship work, it'll take a LOT of shifting, compromising and settling on both of your parts. Personally, that's not something I'd want because it takes a lot of energy and effort that I'd rather be spending just enjoying life and each other. I don't mean this in a hurtful way even though it stings a bit to think about, but you do ever think there might be a better match for yourself or him out there? For example, someone who wouldn't mind the mess or even is messy themselves or who wants to stay in the hometown and all that jazz? Someone who would accept him just as he is, 100%, where the relationship wouldn't require an endless to-do list of unwanted self-improvements in order to make it work? Again, it's not to criticize or hurt you but just to give you something to consider.

I've been in a long-term (and later long-distance) relationship where there were such big little differences; for all the good in that relationship, I'm so glad that I finally ended it so I could be in my current relationship (also long-distance) because I can now see how "easy" and smoothly good relationships can be... but I wouldn't have known that before had I not ended the first relationship so I could experience this one. I'm very grateful for the turn of events, to say the least. I'm not telling you what to do because I absolutely recognize the good things in your relationship and know that different people want different things, but that's where I am coming from.

As LondonBlue just mentioned and others mentioned before, you don't have to decide now.... you can just enjoy it while you can and see where life takes you. However, you also don't have to keep it up if you don't want to. I do agree that relationships can have harder periods or moments where you're not sure BUT I think it's good examine if you feel those areas of conflict are points of growth or just downright personality differences that are always going to be there, just in different manifestations. For me in that one relationship, I went through a time like you are going through now; I realized that I did not want a binding partnership with him like marriage but I also did not want to end the relationship. Eventually, things lead to a breakup but we had some good, valuable moments between then.

I think a good way to see how you jibe in a more everyday way is to try living together for a month or so, like during the summer vacation for you. That way you don't have the binding commitment but you can also test-drive to see how everyday interactions work for you. You may find it's unbearable or you may find that it's a whole lot more harmonious than you'd have thought. [Smile]

[ 11-14-2009, 10:09 AM: Message edited by: Ecofem ]

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moonlight bouncing off water
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Before I give you my perspective on the situation I thought I should inform you that I am no expert on LDRs or relationships (of the dating variety) at all. I am just some 14 year old who's longest relationship was one hour with someone who lives less than ten houses away. Although it might also be note-worthy to add that since I don't (or didn't) always have people to talk to at school (and other various locations) I often study people and basically try to solve the puzzle, figure out why they find this or that funny and why I don't fit into the equation; although that failed epically it has given me a unique perspective on the human psyche. (Sorry I am rambling)

First I noticed that you put the Cons first, why was this? To me it seems like subconsciously you either put them first because they were the most significant or because they were all that filled your mind. I also noticed that the Cons were more comprehensive than the Pros and some of the Pros contained Cons in brackets following them. Also you didn't seem as gung-ho about the Pros.

I also agree that you seem as though you are seeking justification to terminate the relationship. You may think this is useless, and I do suppose I am too attached to the concept of hypothetical situations, but if you were to wake up tomorrow and break-up with him, what would ensue emotionally, as well as in other respects, for you? What, alternatively, would occur if you were to stay with him?

I also would like to point out that you have sought advice as to what you should do about your situation you are making a decision every day by staying with him; perhaps this is the best choice, I do not intend to say blatantly stay with him or don't, but I hope you realize that you are deciding, even by doing nothing. I just hope that you really feel that whatever conclusion (and hopefully following decision) you come to reflects your true wishes and not the indecisiveness that has previously affected it.

Ultimately you must ask yourself this, am I doing what and need by staying with this guy or would that be better accomplished by not staying with him?

--------------------
~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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safe_sex_for_all
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Hi I just wanted to post and say I really appreciate all the replies. I didn't want to just stop responding with out saying that. At the moment I'm really swamped with end of semester papers (in the 25-30 page range) and projects so if everyone can hold their thoughts for 2 weeks or so I would really love to continue this conversation then. It is incredibly helpful I just don't have the time nor energy to think about this or type out my thoughts for the moment. So if it is alright with the volunteers here I'll revive this thread in a couple of weeks.

thanks

Posts: 17 | From: Indiana | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
safe_sex_for_all
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Member # 41579

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PS: I am taking the advice to not make a decision right now, I have too much other stuff going on to make a well thought out decision. I'll be back soon, I promise, I just have to get through these projects (some of which would probably interest you all including issues of the projection and concealment of gender, masculinity, the sexual double standard, male privilege, abortion, child custody, and child support) so rest assured I'll be back soon, have to go tackle some complicated issues now.
Posts: 17 | From: Indiana | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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