I’m dating a guy who is objectively fine, and I have fun with him, and our sex life is good but… I’m just not crazy about him. Our relationship is good day-to-day, but just kind of superficial. We don’t talk about anything important—and that’s fine, because most of the time I don’t have anything super-important to talk about, but if I did, we wouldn’t really have a foundation for it.
We’ve been dating for about six months, and there’s no reason for me to break up with him tomorrow—it’s not like we fight or I’ve met someone else—but I just don’t have a depth of feeling for him. Like I said, we have fun together, but I think part of the fun is just the fact of having someone else to do things with. If the universe replaced this guy, mid-date, with another guy of similar height and temperament, I don’t know if I’d even notice or care.
I feel bad about breaking up with him, because as far as he knows, everything is going great. We always have a good time together, but I want a connection deeper than just having fun together. What do you think I should do? Try to make this work? Keep dating him until I find someone else? How do I explain why—all of a sudden—I don’t want to date him anymore?
Ah, the Good-Enough Guy. I’ve dated several of those. In fact, I’d say I’ve dated mostly those guys. They can be great people, but they’re just not quite right for you. And that’s the part that matters.
Now, they can have a place in your life. If you’re just interested in having a companion for right now, having someone, as you say, to go out and do things with, it’s fine to continue dating this guy IF he knows where you stand. He needs to hear that you enjoy him but you don’t foresee a long-term future for the two of you. If he’s OK with that, you can continue having fun together until one or both of you meets someone else.
It can be hard to have room to find the right relationship, though, when you’re in the wrong one. And I hear your question about how to explain the breakup to your current, unsuspecting bf. I once thought (probably unconsciously, which is even more pernicious) that breaking up required a reason. A good reason. And that if I couldn’t articulate a good reason, then we’d just continue dating. But you don’t need to be able to name exactly what isn’t right about someone.
It’s completely sufficient just to know. And you seem to know pretty clearly that this is not the guy for you. I was freed from this trap when a friend of mine told me that an ex-boyfriend of hers had broken up with her by saying, “My feelings for you haven’t progressed like I thought they would.”
When she told me that, I immediately thought, “That can be my reason? Perfect! That describes like 20 relationships I’ve had!” I think you can say something similar: You like him; you’ve had fun with him, but you don’t have the connection you’re looking for in a long-term relationship. I think you said it perfectly in your letter: You don’t have a depth of feeling for him. Make the move now, so you’ll have room in your life to find someone you do click with.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wise and compassionate response to “Music Critic” in the Jan. 28 Flagpole. I’m a music teacher with a focus on adult learners, and many of my students (both beginners and those returning to music) have had major self-esteem and insecurity issues that they’ve had to recover from due to the off-hand or “well-meaning” (ahem) comments from friends, family and even former music teachers, who have implied my students’ lack of musical ability. It’s so sad to think that one mindless comment could actually squelch a person’s desire to pursue an interest in music-making, but it happens all the time. Sometimes, I feel more like a psychologist than a music teacher, because the adult learners, despite their passion and determination to pursue their musical interests, need so much support to overcome their insecurity and fear of failure, to follow a dream they’ve held onto for years. And these students are realistic. They know their goals and limitations; they just want to have fun and do something they’ve always wanted to do. I often wonder what motivates those who feel they need to evaluate another person’s musical interests and efforts. Perhaps it comes out of their own inability to honor their own musical spirit, due to their own unfortunate earlier experiences? I really appreciated your advice. Let’s be positive, supportive and encouraging to those who just want to have fun singing and playing!
New to Athens and loving it!
Thanks for your letter; it’s nice to hear that you agree. In the first column I wrote here, I mentioned that one of the pieces of advice I aspire to follow advises that it’s better to be kind than clever. I think this is a situation where that applies.
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