When I met a guy I liked but knew I would never be with long-term, I decided to throw caution to the wind and get into a relationship I knew would end. It was a fantastic learning experience and I can’t say I regret anything.
Happily ever after isn’t the only option for a good relationship. Who says a relationship’s value lies in its longevity? A three-hour romantic interlude with a handsome stranger could be exactly the right timespan for that particular relationship. Likewise, my year-long partnership was wonderful in its own ways—not because it lasted forever but because we enjoyed it while it did.
I knew from the start that it wasn’t going to last. I’ve had experiences in which I’ve fallen head over heels in love with someone and immediately known I wanted to share every day of my life with them. This wasn’t one of those experiences and I knew it. Instead of walking away or trying to force myself to feel something I didn’t, I accepted it for what it was: a spark of connection and attraction that had a limit.
As we got to know each other, this was confirmed. The closer we got, the more comfortable we got with each other. At the same time, I became more and more sure that this was a short-term relationship. Sometimes I felt guilty for that, but mostly I tried to stay true to myself and my feelings.
We talked about it from time to time and had an understanding. I’m a big believer in transparent communication and I didn’t want my boyfriend to have any illusions about how I felt. Early on in our relationship, I admitted I saw our relationship as a momentary experience. Thankfully, he felt the same and from time to time we would check in with each other to make sure we were still on the same page. This alleviated any guilt I might have felt about the situation and made sure we both knew what we’d signed up for.
We had some fundamental differences. A relationship is built on more than just feelings and this experience brought that lesson home. Without fundamental compatibility in things like sex, money, and life-goals, it can be near impossible to make a relationship work. We had very different outlooks in all of those categories and I knew that those things would ultimately be our undoing. I had no illusions about our relationship lasting.
The age gap made a serious, long-term relationship less feasible. He was a few years younger than me and that meant we were at very different points in our lives. He was still in the middle of college, figuring out who he wanted to be and what direction his life would go in. I had already been in the workforce for several years, had been through a marriage and divorce and was more settled in many ways. This disparity would have made for an odd match in a long-term relationship.
Having an expiration date doesn’t negate falling in love. Even though I knew our days were numbered, I did develop real feelings for him—I don’t think I would have been with him otherwise. After a few months, I told him I loved him and he felt the same way. It was everything a relationship usually is, just without expectations of longevity.
Keeping our relationship open made it easier to enjoy what we had. The fact that we had an open relationship helped stymie any possibility of FOMO and although we didn’t often act on it, just knowing we could be with other people took a lot of pressure off. Knowing that this relationship wasn’t necessarily THE relationship freed us up to simply enjoy each other’s company for what it was, not what it ‘should’ be.
Ultimately, I was the one to call it off. Eventually, I felt the relationship had naturally run its course. I knew our incompatibilities were making certain aspects of our relationship more and more difficult and the longer we were together, the harder it was to deal with them. I also felt the spark of connection had faded and our lives seemed to be going in different directions. There was definitely still a sadness in the breakup, but it didn’t come as a surprise the way it has in other relationships.
We had fun based on the moment, not the future. Seeing the end from the start allowed us to enjoy the moment that we were in together. Instead of looking forward to a potential future—moving in together, having kids, getting married—we used our energy to be present with each other, knowing our relationship wouldn’t go on indefinitely. It made for a light-hearted connection and we were able to celebrate whatever time we had without grasping to it too tightly.
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