I’m Torn Between Two Men!

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Reader’s Question

I am 21 and broke up with my boyfriend of five years last year in July. He’s a wonderful boyfriend, but I didn’t like the relationship we were in; it felt like we were an old boring married couple. Two weeks after we broke up, I met a guy at a club. He was on holiday from Holland (I live in South Africa). I ended up seeing him a few times after that before he went back home, and then we stayed in contact. At first we spoke every second or third day, and eventually we were speaking every morning and night. He says he does not care about the distance, he wants to be with me; so we decided to try a long-distance relationship.

He booked to come to SA in December for three weeks, but in November I heard that my ex had started seeing someone else. I couldn’t stand this, so I broke up with the Dutch guy, and my ex and I got back together. He promised me he had changed all the things I never liked about him, but it was not true; the day after the Dutch guy arrived back in SA, I broke up with my ex again so that I could be with the Dutch guy.

I spent three weeks with him and I can honestly say that I had the best time of my life. He went back home and we carried on with the long-distance relationship, until again I heard that my ex was seeing someone else, and I again broke up with the Dutch guy and got back together with my ex in March. In April the Dutch guy came down to SA again. He was hoping I would leave my boyfriend for him again, but I didn’t, although I did cheat on my boyfriend with him. My boyfriend and I moved in together three months later and now I feel like I made a mistake. All I can think about is the Dutch guy (we still speak to each other every day). I don’t know what to do.

I do not want to hurt my boyfriend AGAIN and I do not want to be in a long-distance relationship either, but I feel like I am being unfair to my boyfriend if I’m with him and not applying myself to the relationship, as I’m always thinking of the Dutch guy. They are both stable, kind, affectionate, and caring, but with the Dutch guy there is excitement and passion, and he is very independent. With my current boyfriend I feel more like a parent telling him what to do and what not to do. I also am not and haven’t been sexually attracted to him since before we broke up in July last year. I have to force myself to do anything with him sexually.

I don’t know what to do and it is driving me insane. I can’t eat, sleep or work.

Psychologist’s Reply

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So let me get this straight. You broke up twice and cheated on Original Boyfriend because he is boring and dependent. You are not sexually attracted to him, have to force yourself to be sexual with him, and are not trying to improve your relationship or even stay faithful. Yet you moved in with him because you could not stand for him to move on with someone else who probably appreciated him more than you do. In the meantime, you’ve been involved with Dutch Boyfriend for close to a year. You’ve had the best time of your life with him, believe that he has the qualities you most want in a boyfriend and think about him constantly.

I hope that my concise recitation of the facts helps you see what is startlingly clear to all who have read your letter, and that is that you do in fact know what you want to do. You obviously want to be with Dutch Boyfriend but are having a hard time letting go of Original Boyfriend. There could be several reasons for your inability to let go, but the most likely reason is fear.

When thinking about making a change in relationships, it is very scary to contemplate the idea that you might be making a mistake. You could find yourself with Dutch Boyfriend only to find that he is not, in fact, who you thought he was. One of the problems with long-distance relationships is that they do not provide the opportunity to really see how the two of you will interact when together for long periods of time. Long-term relationships have to deal with the mundane nature of daily living. It is not always fun and exciting to endure the hygiene or sleeping habits of your partner, or figure out the daily grind of work and life in general. You might discover that Dutch Boyfriend doesn’t handle stress or conflict appropriately or, once you settle down together, he might be just as boring as Original Boyfriend. So yes, I could see how making the switch could be very frightening for you. Of course, it could be that the two of you are perfect together, but you’ll never know until you take the risk.

In the meantime, it’s important to realize that relationships are about two people. In order for relationships to be healthy, they need to be two-way streets. This means that you must consider the health and welfare of the other person as well as yourself. Relationships take compromise and sacrifice and, based on your description, it sounds like Original Boyfriend is the only one doing either, even if he’s unaware of it. He’s the one compromising his happiness for someone who doesn’t truly want to be with him. This is not to say that he isn’t getting something positive out of being with you (otherwise he wouldn’t keep getting back together with you), but how would you like to be in his position? Would you want to be with someone who could barely stand to touch you, who wasn’t faithful and was thinking of someone else the entire time he was with you? I know I sure wouldn’t!

Only you can decide what you need to do, but it seems like you are allowing fear to rule your life instead of doing what you truly want. For what it’s worth, I think living involves taking risks. Yes, it could blow up in your face and you could end up without either boyfriend but that is why it’s called a risk. But you’re young. All that it could mean is that, in the long run, you might enter the next relationship a little bit wiser.

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