Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.
It’s been almost four months with my new boyfriend Steven. Every time I try to quantify or talk seriously about our relationship, which is rarely, Steven feeds me this stuff about how it is best to take things day by day and not put labels on it. In the meantime, he has introduced me to his friends and some family (not his parents) and we spend a lot of time together on a daily basis.
I really don’t understand why he is so uncomfortable with labels. My family lives farther away and while I would love for them to meet Steven, I hesitate to mention this to him because of his attitude towards talking about the idea of us. What do you think I should do?
Normally I would say that Steven’s actions speak louder than words, but the more I thought about that expression, the more like garbage it really sounds. If he really cares about you, he should either articulate that in whatever form you desire it, or articulate why he is unable to articulate it.
The reason Steven is not OK with talking about things is because he has some essential reservation about you. The reason he introduced you to his friends and family is to see if that reservation disappears or if his feelings change. In the meantime, he is basically using you until he finds something better. In order to gain the upper hand, simply tell him that while you’ve enjoyed being with him, you’re interested in something more serious. If he doesn’t immediately reassure you, you have your answer.
I have a problem. I had already been in a relationship with my girlfriend Tess for about a year when an ex, Ana, moved back to New York. We had already been really close when she was transferred to London for her job. Initially I did not tell Ana about Tess, but it all came out once she got back to the city. I said that I didn’t want to break up with Tess, so she suggested not telling her that we were having sex.
I know I should have said now and ended things with one of them, but I didn’t. It has been six months of being with these two women, and it is the happiest I have ever been in my life romantically. Things have gotten so much better with each of them than they ever were when I was in a relationship with one alone. Normally if I am focused on one person I get a little bit clingy, but having both of these wonderful women in my life makes things with Tess a lot better, and screwing around with Ana is about a hundred times more exciting than it was when we were exclusive.
I honestly believe I could conceal this from Tess for a long time, and since she says she is happy, I don’t see how it is really hurting our relationship. I’m tempted to simply keep this up for as long as it can, and if it all blows up, it will have been worth it.
I’m glad you’re happy, but if you need the idea of “screwing around” to enhance your main relationship, there is either something deeply wrong with that relationship, or something deeply wrong with you. I would say that at the conclusion of this effort you are probably going to be left alone, but since Ana seems interested in being with you no matter the circumstances, maybe you will still have her. You won’t ever half her respect, or her full attention, and you will have hurt someone you claim to care about in the process, but you might still have her.
It is hard being with one person, but if you want your best chance at actual, verifiable happiness, end things with Tess and try them out with Ana on a full-time basis. If you only broke up because she left the country and she’s now back on a more permanent basis and you couldn’t resist her, it sounds like you really care for her. If things don’t work out, Tess may still be there as a viable option, and you won’t ever have to deal with the detonation of her anger that is likely coming when she eventually finds out that you’re a piece of shit.
Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.