My boyfriend’s son came to town last week for a 9-day visit. They got to spend a lot of good time together, and I had the chance to tag along on several occasions. It was really fun to see them together, bonding, enjoying each other like father and son should.
His son flew back home on Sunday morning and, since then, has been expressing to my boyfriend that he misses him. A lot. Which is expected and obvious and yeah, of course he misses him. And of course, my boyfriend misses him right back.
Part of our relationship has always involved an understanding that there is no guarantee he’ll continue to live here in Minnesota long-term. His son is in Indiana and is almost 14 years old—some of his most crucial adolescent years are upon him, and my boyfriend is understandably distraught about the idea of missing more time with him than he already has.
When we first started dating, that was one of our earliest conversations. We both acknowledged the risk and decided to go ahead and date, anyway. I’ve since made it clear that moving away from Minnesota isn’t something I feel personally or professionally ready to do—not now, and probably not for another two years at the very least, if ever. I like it here. I’ve found home and community here. I feel like I belong. It’s been a long time since I had that feeling and I’m not too interested in giving it up.
So now, after his son’s most recent visit, my boyfriend is more torn than ever. He knows he should move closer to his son. He knows his son wants and needs him closer. He knows he wants and needs to be closer to his son. He knows his sobriety may be at risk if he moves back to his old hometown. And he knows that I won’t be going with him if he leaves.
I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that this would be the inevitable quandary: he and I have become more attached and certainly love each other, but his priorities lie in being a good father to his son, and maintaining his sobriety, above all else.
My priorities right now are my own sobriety, my career, and achieving stability in my home life.
Our paths intersected wonderfully in late 2017, but I don’t know how much longer they’ll remain intertwined. It hurts, a lot. It hurts because I let myself daydream about the possibility of moving in with him. It hurts because it’s another situation where I feel like I knew this would happen, yet did it anyway. It hurts because I have become very fond of his kid and his family and yet I can’t commit to leaving my life behind just to follow him to some small, semi-rural town in Illinois, Michigan, or Indiana.
My boyfriend hasn’t made any definitive statements yet about what his plans are. He says that he and the kiddo are keeping an “open dialogue” about what needs to happen. I’m afraid that this is a tactic to stave off the inevitable and painful realization that the benefits of staying here in Minnesota are outweighed by the negatives of not moving closer to his son.
So my heart hurts for him in that regard. It hurts for me and what I see as the likely loss of someone I love. It hurts for him and what he’s going to have to go through to make it back to his son.
I know that being a bigger part of his son’s life will be worth it for him, but that doesn’t make letting go of a good thing here any easier.
I know that being able to pursue my career and my “home” will be worth it, but that doesn’t make letting go of this good thing any easier. Especially considering that, until very very recently, my idea of “home” included him in the picture. It doesn’t seem like I can count on that vision to hold true anymore.
When I spoke with him on the phone last night, I ended up crying quite a bit. I told him we had to stop talking about moving in together unless it was a reality because it’s too hard to get my hopes up and have them dashed. I told him that it’s much harder for me now to take this next step into uncertainty because over the last few months I’ve become more attached to him and more involved in his “other life” back in Indiana. I told him that I couldn’t be certain that this situation wouldn’t become too overwhelming or distracting to me in my new career, where I need to be able to be emotionally present and available for my clients. I told him that I felt stupid for feeling so sad, despite knowing all along that this was the most likely outcome.
He listened to me and thanked me for talking to him, and acknowledged that his current indecision is causing a lot of confusion and pain not only for me, but also for himself and his son. He recognized that he can’t ask me to stay if it becomes too painful, and told me that he understands completely if at any point I need to step away. He told me that if it comes down to it, he can’t and won’t choose me over his son. I always knew that intellectually, and I’d never ask him to do that anyway. I’d never want him to. Still, it felt like a small blow when he said it out loud. At the end of it all, there was no resolution, no firm decision, just another commitment to keep “figuring things out.”
My gut feeling on it is that yes, he will be leaving someday. Maybe in two months, maybe in six. I don’t know when, but our relationship in its current form has an expiration date on it. It’s hard for me to believe that he would ever opt for distance over a better relationship with his son. It’s hard for me to believe that either one of us would be happy or satisfied with a long-distance relationship once he moves.
And so, the unofficial, unknown countdown clock has officially begun.
Again, it’s not 100% certain that he is moving back to Indiana, but more and more, it’s hard for me to believe that he’ll continue to feel good about a life lived so far away from his child. He doesn’t particularly enjoy his current job, and he certainly feels no fulfillment from it. He’s still living in the same sober house that he moved into in early 2016. Outside of his relationship with me, he seems to have few other social connections in the city that appear strong enough to weigh him in this direction.
So basically, in a reversal from where I was just over a month ago, I am now starting the grieving process for the relationship I’ve had up until this point. I am trying to figure out what space I can allow for this to continue without hurting myself unnecessarily, or inadvertently hurting my boyfriend. I am reconfiguring what my life is going to look like now that moving in with him seems more like a pipe dream than a daydream. I am trying to figure out what it would mean to continue in a relationship with him now that these new boundaries and limits have been set into place.
Do I keep inviting him into my family life? How do I eventually approach this weird dynamic with our shared group of friends? When is the right time to let go and move on? Is there a right time? Is there a wrong time? Does it matter? What role am I comfortable playing in his transition home, if (when) he decides to move back home? Will I have a chance to talk to his kid about it, or do I trust him to take over that conversation and lead the way?
Lots of questions. Lots of difficulty. I am emotionally drained but not broken. Even as I was crying on the phone last night, I told him through my tears that I hope he knows I will be OK no matter what happens. Because, well… I will. I will be OK. So, at least there’s that.