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Should She Move on in a "Second Life" or Wait on the Ex?

Updated on August 18, 2011

Dear Veronica,

I am in the middle of a chaotic love affair. I left him about a year ago, but I was torn about 50-50 on leaving or staying. I think I would have eventually left because of the bad anyway, but I wasn't really ready to let go of the good and it was some unusual circumstances beyond either of our control that caused me to leave earlier than I was ready.

At first, he hung out with me a lot, brought me V day gifts that year, came over to eat (he loves my cooking). Then he began dating someone new and I waited it out because I knew it wouldn't last. It didn't. I still have him over to dinner sometimes and he kind of follows me around by tagging along with my son whom I hang out with online and messages me just to talk.

Here is the problem. I want him. I miss him. But, I do not want to live with him. I wanted to keep him as a non live-in lover. He however feels that it is morally wrong to sleep with me if I won't live with him (plus the perks, like cooking, laundry, clean house) and he won't. He was actually a wonderful provider but our differences are irreconcilable. He and I share a stress disorder that creates dangerous clashes and is not likely to improve.

The thing is, he and I are perfect together, when it's good. There could be nobody but me for him because he's so unusual and I adore all his imperfections. There is nobody better for me than him. Chemical, physical, emotional... he's perfect in every way for me, except for when he is abusive. His behavior is unpredictable, maybe mine is too.

Right now he's alone and waiting for me in a particular online place and for more dinner invitations. In the midst of this, I go back and forth daydreaming about the good times and even dreaming joyously about him and then suddenly remembering the bad parts all at once.

I began dating a new guy and I was upfront with him that I wasn't sure I was relationship material and that I didn't know what I wanted. We have gone out for about two months, but I don't even want to kiss him. I still love the other man. I finally sent this one away but didn't burn my bridge; I just told him I needed my alone space for right now, so he's waiting on the sidelines, emailing me and leaving the occasional voice message which I don't return.

This new guy is nice-looking, well-mannered, is financially stable and he likes me. He is the marrying kind. I'd love to be married. But... I only want what I want. If I don't get that chemical thing, I don't even want to be touched. I will pass up 99 good guys to get to the one complicated difficult vulnerable man. I have always been like this. The idea of a physical relationship with some friend-like guy, the kind I can really like as a person is a nonstarter. There is zero physical attraction for me. The crazy chemical thing I have for whoever that one bad boy is in my life, if one has caught my attention, is irresistable. I know the pattern, I know it's stupid, but I can't control who I find desireable and I get physically nauseous at the idea of sex with someone I'm not chemically attracted to.So at the moment, two men are waiting on me and I'm just screwing around reading politics, writing poetry, going to church and playing rpg online.Any advice?


Dear j,

Despite all the vagary and things you're telling me you're not going to tell me, I still think I can manage some advice for you. This is because the things you have told are very sensitive, and real. There are quite a few "tells" in your honesty. I know you want to do the right thing here. So let's break it down.

The online site, whether it's Second Life, or an even more adult-geared or fantasy-type site, is significant.

The online relationship you have with someone completely clouds and affects the real life relationship. I know it doesn't seem that way because of the honesty factor. But it does. Online we can be more trusting, more open, more rose-colored about people. When we then have a relationship with them in real life, we bring with us that depth of trust, and that little illusion of being above the shit that is reality sometimes.

I know that it feels like it's not significant enough to matter, but it is and it does. And by comparison, the people we only know in this dimension, pale. They aren't as 3D, trusted, interesting, deep, or fantasy-connected.

Look, this person your dating that you have no chemistry for, is a thing all its own. It has nothing to do with the ex. You shouldn't think about having a physical relationship with someone if it makes you feel nauseous. Take the new guy off the table right now. It really doesn't matter how nice or good or stable he is, if you don't have sparks then the answer is no. Politely let him know it's not working and let him go.

But don't confuse this new guy being the wrong guy, with your attraction for the ex. They are two separate things. If the right guy came around, this would be clearer.

The point I'm making however, is that even if the right guy comes around in real life, he's going up against alot because he has to compare with the "Second Life" type relationships.

The big "Tell" for me here is that you said he tags along with your son in this online forum, and sees you. There's not alot of forums that can explain that kind of connection. I know there's one that's like Dungeons and Dragons, and I know there are a couple that are geared toward Power Exchange relationships. Being that you share this online forum with your son, I'm assuming it's one of the regular ones, of which Second Life is the standard.

Another piece of this situation is that you said you and the ex each have a stress disorder, and that you each have some unpredictable behavior. There is a very real truth to making this connection.

For some people, opposites attract. But for some people, seeing their own behavior and troubles and disorders in someone else, is very comforting. It makes them feel validated, and less alone. When you struggle with any feelings of insecurity because you have certain histories, disorders or problems, you can feel very isolated. You can feel like no one will understand you, and you don't fit in. But when you can look at someone else and identify with their damage, it makes you feel less alone. You look at this person and say - "Yeah, there goes a member of my pack. I have the capacity to understand him. And If I can get him, that means he can get me."

It is fantastic that you recognize that your disorders clash. Although it's a significant experience to realize you aren't alone, it's also important to discover what you need in order to thrive.

This rolls into the attraction for the bad boy. What is is that women see in the bad boy... I've read lots of theories, none of which made any sense to me. So I had to do some soul searching and figure it out for myself. I think it's projection of our own inner badness. Whether you're living it, or repressing it, I think you've got a little "bad girl" in you, and that's what's so attractive about the bad boy. The lifestyle, the not caring, the free wheeling, whatever you want to call it. I think when you date a bad boy, you're actually dating that part of yourself.

The reason it doesn't work, is because you're more complicated than just your badness. The other parts of you can't let you be bad 24/7. You have goals, and values, and morals and responsibilities. in the end, it's not the bad boy that causes the relationship failure, it's the rest of you that does.

You said there was this event, this unusual circumstance that caused you to leave this boyfriend a year ago. You qualified it and buried it, but that's what you said. And you said it first. And in a very justifying way. I think this event you're not sharing is much bigger than you're letting on. Maybe on some level you blame this event for the end of the relationship even though your head can reason that away. I don't know. But I am willing to bet that whatever the circumstance was, it needs some more work from you. Some letting go, some working out, some understanding... some thing.

There's one more thing you said that's very troubling to me. You said when you were first dating him, he started dating someone else. But you don't use the words "cheated on you," or "broke up with you." It may have been an open relationship, you may not have been exclusive, he may have been allowed to date others. But reading in between the lines shows me that even if that was the reality, your heart felt either cheated on, pushed aside, or dumped. I'm not saying he did anything wrong, I'm saying it felt like he did. There's a pain there. And that may be part of the rest of the story here. And possibly, leads to the confusing part of your note. You miss him and want him, but he won't sleep with you because you don't want to live with him.

Umm... Ok.

I don't have enough info here. He clearly has his own issues - not having sex because he can't live with you, is very odd, and houses some drama or damage. But that's his, so I won't go there.

I can't really work through this part and offer advice other than to say - there's something wrong here. Maybe it's in the fact that he betrayed you early in the relationship so you feel you can't cross that line of trust to live with him. Maybe it's part of your disorder. If you have trust issues to begin with, and this guy hurt your heart, it has created this barrier. Our hearts find a way of communicating with us, especially when we won't listen.

If it is your heart that is saying you don't want to live with this guy, maybe you should listen a little closer.

I realize my advice was a little disjointed, and doesn't offer an overall solution. Your note was complex and unclear, but shows tremendous insight and maturity. My feeling is that you, and your situation, are very complicated. I hope the pieces of insight i drew from your email can help you to take a clearer look at the situation. Even if just one of my thoughts opens up a new pathway of thinking for you, I would be pleased. I hope you'll comment and let us know.


You can email me through the link in my Hubpages Profile, or my blog profile. If you have a relationship question, send me a note. Thanks!


Submit a Comment

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    Thank you evan. And thanks for keeping an open mind as you read, Best to you with the work you're doing on your marriage.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    i am impressed. veronica you really took the time and read between the lines. when i first read the beginning i had my own idea in my head of what i thought. but after i read your advice i changed my mind and said of course. everything you said made so much sense. you even follow up your points in comments. i spent this past year working on my marriage. i know it is hard to say i am sorry. but i find it was even harder to say you hurt me when you said this. it was good advice from you to j. i wish them the best.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    You seem to be some kind of miracle worker. As I noted before, you are deep, loving, wise and kind. From this exchange we can all see that you offer sound advice if the person asking is willing to do their part of the work by following it.

    Anyone who is lucky enough to receive advice from you is blessed indeed for having found you and recognized your amazing ability. Keep up the good work!

  • profile image

    8 years ago

    I took your advice exactly.

    On the first, the new guy, it allowed me to let go of the guilt of keeping him on the line while I knew it wasn't going anywhere. I had to stop sitting on the fence and admit to myself I couldn't do it. It is much fairer to him adn probably also to me.

    On the second, he still loves me. We are going to try again (safely). He wanted that apology, he apologized to me and even if we don't know what will happen in the future, we are both now much happier just acknowleging some of the love and the damage and the confusion, and much less wounded.

    Thank you so very much.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY


    Thank you for all this feedback. It's amazing to hear how you're working through this, and I am so very honored I was able to help in any small way.


  • profile image

    8 years ago

    Oh V, you did help. I read you and reread you and it was hidden in there and it's bigger than the relationship. I get it. You said we were alike, in my mind anyway. Yes.

    The grief is because abandoning him is somehow translating to me as me abandoning myself. This is why I can't let go. He is me to me and I had been trying to be the good parent to love myself, but became both the bad and the abandoning parent and the guilt is infinite. You said that and you were right.

    Not loving him would be like the fear of other people not understanding or loving me. This is about my parents and myself.

    I have to work on this, but at least I know where to start now.

  • profile image

    8 years ago

    You are on the pulse of it right here and I needed to hear this. Yes, sometimes it just hurts and I guess it's many people, not just me.

    "Life can be hard. You're situation is the epitome of how things can just sometimes get too complicated. The hurt, the complexities, the heart wanting what it wants, the brain rejecting what it knows... it sounds like everyone involved had beauty, pain, fault, love, and damage. Pretty much like everyone I know."

    And this is the advice I have so much trouble seeing. Balance yes. My whole life can use more of that, but this especially. It's so hard to see things in perspective. Whenever I try with this I go into a great and deep grief.

    "There's a balance you need to find. You know that if you focus on the faults, it exaggerates them and gives them too much power. But if you ignore the faults, they become darker. Is there any chance you could tell him, in very specific words - "I'm sorry for leaving. And I'm hurt you dated someone else."..."

    I guess it's complicated because it is really complicated. I'm so glad you are as wise as I knew you would be.

  • profile image

    8 years ago

    I can. I think at this point it can't hurt because I've been absent from our joint area but I think he's been on looking for me and there is nothing to lose anyway. We are over a year apart and it couldn't get any worse.

    He sits a mile away alone playing the same game I sit that same mile away playing alone, while we both look for hints of each other across time.

    I could call him.

    You're right again. This is unfinished. I need some kind of closure. I'm tired of hurting him. I hope he's tired of hurting me, too.

    There is guilt. I know he has some. He can't apologize but he said to me about six weeks after I left that he didn't know why he treated me as he did sometimes, that he often couldn't even remember it. The other side of that is if he doesn't know why or doesn't remember, he can never control it.

    That is why I can't live with him, but I wanted to keep him, if you will, with me because I love him and I'm sure he loves me too. My solution was to remain live apart lovers. I don't know if he will change his mind.

    But yes, one of the unresolved things is the guilt I feel for my part of what went wrong and for leaving when I knew from the start that was his biggest fear. He was afraid I would abandon him, like happened before and... I did.

    I actually miss taking care of him a great deal, but there is no way we could live with each other with our disorders setting each other off on tangents.

    Thank you, Veronica. You are very compassionate.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY


    Yes. It makes sense.

    Thanks for commenting, I have a better grasp of the time line and of just how complicated this was.

    Seems I hit the nail on the head about the feeling like he betrayed you thing. EVen though he was "allowed" it felt a certain way.

    And now I have to add to it. I think you actually feel guilty about that.

    You're laying alot of the blame on your leaving. It's like you want to take the blame, that would be easier, than admitting that part of this is that it really hurt when he dated someone else.

    I'm glad you're letting new guy go.

    I said the event had unfinished work, and apparently it does. I think some of it is the kids. And that's just hard.

    Life can be hard. You're situation is the epitome of how things can just sometimes get too complicated. The hurt, the complexities, the heart wanting what it wants, the brain rejecting what it knows... it sounds like everyone involved had beauty, pain, fault, love, and damage. Pretty much like everyone I know.

    There's a balance you need to find. You know that if you focus on the faults, it exaggerates them and gives them too much power. But if you ignore the faults, they become darker. Is there any chance you could tell him, in very specific words - "I'm sorry for leaving. And I'm hurt you dated someone else."

  • profile image

    8 years ago

    Thank you so much. It is quite complicated. This man waited for me for a few years to get over a much longer relationship. To complicate it further he was one of my son's friend's father. So all of us play a rpg together and have for years.

    Since I wasn't looking but he was waiting he asked me out in chat in the game and we started dating. So we started going out and he took me to all the family things, graduations, birthdays for his children and practically moved into my house. Our families all knew and liked each other, I even get along with his ex.

    When we moved in together in his house it was up and down but we settled in and everything was wonderful (except when it wasn't).

    Then his son moved into the living room which created a situation. I like his son, but I felt like I had no space. My mate felt that too but he wanted me to bite the bullet, say something and fix the situation because he didn't want to be the one to tell his son to take a bedroom instead of the living room and then punish me for doing what he was trying to push off on me. I refused and stuffed it back on him.

    In the midst of this I became seriously physically ill. He was at best, to the side of it. Not helpful but not blaming because I wasn't well enough to take care of the house. After surgery, he got in a fight with my daughter over her trying to take care of me there and I fled two days out of the hospital. He asked me to come back but I was too sick to deal with it then.

    Here is where I didn't want to leave, but I did. This was about the one year point of living together.

    I got a new house after I left and for a while we hung out. Then he dated the other woman. He had every right to date, he had already told me he wouldn't consider a nontraditional undefined relationship with me, so it wasn't cheating because we weren't sleeping together.

    But you're right. It felt to me like he was. I was devastated.

    And yes, he's a great deal like me, although my children say he isn't. He is very alone, I feel like he needs me. I feel like I need him often. He's intelligent and political (opposite) and very silly and has moments of such great kindness. He could fix anything. He loved being waited on and felt quite spoiled. I loved spoiling him. Other times he is unapproachable and cold, critical, even sometimes lost like a child.

    He probably thinks I left him, well I did but not really... somewhere in me, I knew that if I hadn't been sick, I wouldn't have left at all at that time.

    I don't blame our children, I actually know his son a long time and I really love his kids. But it was a lot of what went wrong. All our children.

    I left too early, but even if I hadn't, I would have left later. I just wish I had that last bit of time back. And him hanging around buddying up to my son isn't making it easier for me to move on.

    So I didn't date, I waited months for him to finish up the other dating thing and then I thought we might try again.

    He wouldn't date then, then later he wanted to date and I didn't want to and this went back and forth.

    We started hanging out again and just seeing him was so painful I thought I should date others. I can't pin it down but it's about him sleeping with someone else while in my mind I was still waiting for him.

    I tried dating a variety of people until I found someone interesting enough to date often, but you're right, it's not enough. I will take your advice and let that newer one know.

    With the man I am loving, I think we're both so wounded by my leaving it may never be fixed. We both feel abandoned. But a big part of me still wishes it could be fixed, even just for a little while longer.

    Does that make sense? :(


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