“Dear Brian…A few months ago my long term boyfriend and I broke up, but on good terms. Even after breaking up we’ve continued seeing each other with the premise that there are “no expectations.” With the informality of this relationship-thing with my Ex, I’ve kept my options open and have found myself really liking another guy. Although I still have feelings for my Ex, I also want to explore these developing feelings for this new man. I don’t want to lose my Ex, but I don’t want to regret not getting to know this new fella. What should I do??”
I was wondering how long it would take for one of these questions to make me feel old-fashioned. I like to think that I understand what you kids are doing out there but then I try to wrap my head around the idea of dating an ex while developing something more serious with someone else at the same time and my brain completely explodes.
What I understand is that you guys have “no expectations” of each other which leads me to believe that, in theory, you can do whatever you want here and be in the clear. You’re totally allowed to see someone else and develop feelings for that person and see where those feelings take you. So far so good. But what you’re telling me actually makes me think that there are expectations. You’re concerned that whatever you do with this new guy is going to affect what you’ve got with your ex. That’s something that wouldn’t happen if you were in a truly open relationship. I’m guessing you’re worried about hurting his feelings and what that would lead to (a post breakup breakup?). And I’m guessing that’s because your feelings would be hurt if the shoe was on the other foot. And I’m guessing that means that this isn’t as expectation-free as you both might believe.
As far as I can tell, the only way to deal with this is with total honesty. For what it’s worth, I think you should be exploring this new option. Something about your time with your ex has lead you both to believe that you should (at least partially) move on. But we’re dealing with three people’s feelings now. Eventually, you’re going to have to really think about this and be honest with yourself as to what you want from this arrangement and what you’d be able to deal with if roles were reversed. As things get more involved and complicated, you’re obviously going to have to make a choice between these two guys. And if you can’t (or won’t), then you absolutely have to give both of them the chance to make up their own minds about this.
They could both be totally cool with splitting your time and attention and then everyone is happy and the world is young and crazy and completely foreign to me. But if your new man has any inklings towards something more serious, then I have a hunch that he’s not going to like some other guy hanging around, waiting for some “no expectations” attention and he may leave. That has to be his choice to make, though. You can’t drag him too deep into this before he gets a say. Same with your ex. Sure, you guys broke up and you can do whatever you want with no consequences and etc. etc. etc., but we both know that’s not completely true and he deserves the opportunity to make up his own mind about what he can handle.
I know that you’re just asking about what you should be doing about this right now. And I think you’re fine at the moment. Explore your opportunities, hang out with your ex. But don’t lose sight of the future. What happens if you like this guy more and more? Or another guy? How does having the ex hang around affect any of that? And should your ex actually be your ex? Would you be hurt if he left you for someone else? I feel that the more that you think through these things, the more you’ll realize that this arrangement is going to be tough to maintain. It’s like the old saying goes: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Actually, I don’t understand that phrase at all. Is there a reason why you wouldn’t eat your cake? I guess if you were on a diet or something but then why are you hanging around all that cake? Who keeps bringing you to places that have cake? And couldn’t you get some kind of low fat cake anyway? Does this apply to cupcakes? What a dumb phrase. What were we talking about again?
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