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Ask Team Practical: Wandering Eye


by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Wandering Eye | A Practical Wedding

In the swirl of pre-engagement-ness, I have a question that seems difficult to talk about with anyone. My partner is awesome. We’ve been together for a long time; we’ve supported each other through difficult stuff; we make a great team. We’re excited about our future together, and he’s one of my favorite people of all time.

But here’s what sounds awful. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about the Possible Others in my life. Like, inevitably, over the course of being a person and interacting with other people, sometimes closely for work or just friendships, I’ve identified a small number of people I would consider as a partner, were I not dating my current dude. And this isn’t some lustful wandering eye sort of thing, or a physically motivated wish where I think it would be fun to make out with a hot coworker if I were unattached or had a “monogam-ish” arrangement with my partner. It’s more like, recognizing that deep partner-level compatibility in some close friendships and working relationships. We’re talking a very small number of people over the course of my lifetime.

And while I think about moving forward with my significant other, and moving into “forever” territory, a part of me feels sad about those possible futures that won’t be. Even writing it “out loud” makes me feel terrible, because it’s not that I *don’t* want that future with my partner. But then I psych myself out and worry that I’d only be thinking this if there were some reason, if I were secretly unsatisfied with the life I’m building.

Am I alone in this fear? If I’m not, how do I look at this differently, and how do I reconcile it with really wanting to marry my partner?

- Confused Cartographer

Dear CC,

Choosing a spouse is, by definition, a choice. The very nature of picking one person means that you won’t be picking a whole bunch of other people. You only choose one (well, you know, depending on what kind of marriage you have), and like mom said, there’s plenty of fish in the sea. The surprising thing is, she was also right about there being more than a few good ones.

I’m guessing that you don’t subscribe to the idea of “the one”—that there’s just one person out there that’s your perfect soulmate. For starters, it’s sort of mathematically fatalistic. All we need is for one person in the history of life to choose the wrong spouse, and then the rest of us are screwed. (Think about THAT for a second.) So, if there’s not “one,” that means there’s a whole slew of folks you could possibly “make it work” with. Noticing that this possibility exists—that there might be someone else out there with whom you could also have a pretty awesome go at it—that’s not a red flag that something’s wrong with what you already have. It’s just fact.

Like super smart Sharon wrote, picking a spouse is sort of like buying a house. There are other houses that you could possibly live in, sure. But you pick the one that seems to be the best fit, and then you settle in and start making it your own. And the more you live there, the more it becomes yours and feels like home. That’s it! That’s marriage. This person isn’t “yours” apart from you choosing to make them yours. I know with my own husband, the longer we’re together, the harder it is for me to imagine being able to make it work with anyone else. We grow into a couple and settle into one another more and more all the time.

That doesn’t negate the fact that there could’ve been others. And sometimes, yeah, it’s sort of sad to think about all the different things that could have been. It’s okay to mourn that a bit, but I wouldn’t suggest dwelling on it.

So, hey! You’re probably fine. It’s completely normal to recognize that there are others with whom in another life, in an alternate universe maybe, things could have worked. That doesn’t necessarily bear any reflection on your relationship as it is now. But, you can protect yourself and your partner moving forward.

For your own sanity, you may need to guard your thinking a bit. Realize that these other folks have their own flaws that you haven’t had the chance to see up close. Protect yourself from slipping into a habit of, “Well, so and so wouldn’t have said that,” whenever a fight creeps in. Because those other ones? They have their nasty or lazy or annoying parts, too. You don’t know for a fact that you wouldn’t be having the same exact fight with them.

And for your marriage, consider setting some general parameters about friendships. It’s not realistic to never ever be friends with anyone you’re attracted to (whether physically, emotionally, or whatever else), and it’s neither beneficial nor necessary to spill to your spouse every time you do stumble on someone that makes you feel a connection. But, knowing yourself, knowing your partner, and understanding one another’s comfort level can help you protect the partnership you did choose, even in the face of all the ones you didn’t.

*****

Team Practical, how do you handle the ones that could have been? Do you and your partner have parameters for friendships outside of your relationship?

Photo by APW sponsor Moodeous Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • http://www.myhonestanswer.com/ my honest answer

    I think this is, as Liz says, a totally normal part of just being a human being.

    When I feel a connection with someone, the paramaters for my behaviour is what I would be comfortable doing in front of my husband. So even if myself and this other person are alone together, I don’t laugh any louder than I would if my husband were there, I don’t hug any longer, I don’t say anything more suggestive than I would if my husband were there.

    That’s not to say I don’t say anything suggestive – I just don’t say anything suggestive that I would not say if my husband were there (even if he weren’t). Does that make sense? I guess I’m just kind of a suggestive person!

    • One More Sara

      I think that’s a pretty good rule of thumb. If what you are about to do (or what you could do) makes your spouse (or their spouse) uncomfortable, then it’s probably a good idea to do something else. And in extreme cases where it’s REALLY difficult to keep thing platonic, it might also be a good idea to limit interactions with that person as much as possible (even to the point of cutting that person out). You don’t HAVE to be friends with everyone.

      • http://www.myhonestanswer.com/ my honest answer

        I really agree about cutting someone out Sara. You can (to an extent) choose who you fall in love with, by removing yourself from a situation if you are falling for someone you don’t want to fall for.

        • HH

          I read this article yesterday (http://lydianetzer.blogspot.com/2012/04/15-ways-to-stay-married-for-15-years.html) and passed it along to my fiance- one of the things that jumped out at both of us was this:

          “Do not put yourself in trouble’s way.

          Your husband and your marriage are more valuable than any friendship. Any friendship that troubles the marriage should be over immediately. Protect it with knives and teeth, not because it’s fragile but because it’s precious. ”

          I think that’s spot on and it’s how we’ll handle this very issue.

          • KateM

            Ha! I read that article too and loved it. Posted it on my FB page.

    • meg

      Ha. I love you and your suggestiveness. Indeed. Just only be as flirty as you would be around your partner (even if that is, in fact, a bit flirty…)

    • Cali

      This is my rule, too. I figure if I wouldn’t act the same way with my fiance sitting next to me, then that’s a red flag that I need to reevaluate my behavior in a given situation.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      I pair this rule together with one other, which is “would I be upset if I found out my husband was acting this way with another woman”. I mean, if I’m acting in a way that would annoy me in the reverse situation, I just probably shouldn’t be doing it. Together those rules have served me well.

  • Miriam

    Ditto @My Honest Answer. Totally normal part of being a human being, and very important that both you and your partner understand it, reconcile yourselves to it (even with a sense of humor!), and come to an agreement about what is and isn’t ok to do about it. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do in his presence” is a great rule of thumb.

    Also, xkcd provides a funny take on what would really happen if there was only one person for us in the entire world: http://what-if.xkcd.com/9/
    Tim Minchin on the same thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gaid72fqzNE

    • Holly

      I put “If I Didn’t Have You” on a mix tape I made for my husband years ago. He said it was incredibly romantic :)

  • http://www.restrepoleather.com Robin

    Speaking of the math of having a soulmate, I think this is pretty relevant (and hilarious/awesome): http://what-if.xkcd.com/9/

    Liz is totally right about choosing a spouse – you’re choosing. Ultimately, you need to figure out what’s important for you in a life partner and decide if what your current dude has fits most of that (i.e. share the same values, have similar ideas of what kind of life you want to lead, etc etc). One thing I currently do is whenever my husband are in some argument about something stupid/insignificant, I remind myself that those are the kinds of fights that I would have with literally anyone that I could’ve ended up with. That’s life. At the end of the day, it’s just great being with someone great.

    Don’t be afraid to “move forward” with your man, but of course if you find down the road that you’re not ready or that there is something about him/your relationship that is a dealbreaker, don’t be afraid to move on either.

    • Clare

      Robin, you beat me to the xkcd link! I was the first thing I thought of when I started reading Liz’s reply.

      • kireina

        Ha! Me, too – I was just going to grab the link! Nice to see a healthy APW-xkcd crossover crowd. :)

      • Granola

        And me!! I totally thought “oh that xkcd link would explain the fallacy of the one-soul-mate idea perfectly.”

        Nerdy joy!

    • Marisa

      Reading that xkcd link reminded me of the movie TiMER starring Emma Caulfield from Buffy (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1179794/). The movie takes place in the not so distant future where a device has been invented that, when embedded in one’s arm, has a timer on it that has a countdown to when you’ll meet your soulmate(provided they have a timer as well) and both timers will simultaneously “ring” when you meet each other. The movie addresses several scenarios: the heroines timer doesn’t have a countdown since her soul mate hasn’t gotten a timer yet, one character’s timer is set 20 years down the road so she has to deal with that knowledge, and couples who are already married pre-timer deciding to get timers and realizing they aren’t each others’ soul mates. Puts a new spin on the math and statistics angle that xkcd addresses.

      There’s also a this american life about the math of finding a potential soul mate, and how unromantic that is:
      “NPR reporter David Kestenbaum tells host Ira Glass about the time, when he was doing graduate work in physics, he and his other single friends decided to figure out the mathematical probability that they’d find girlfriends. They wanted to know what the chances were that there was more than one person in the world for them. And This American Life Producer Alex Blumberg and his wife, Nazanin Rafsanjani, reveal the subject of their first fight: They were in love, walking in the park, when Nazanin asked him if it felt like fate—like she was the only one for him. (Yes Alex, there is a wrong answer to that question.) When you’re in love, it always feels like it was meant to be, whether or not it really, statistically speaking, is.”
      http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/374/somewhere-out-there

      • Not Sarah

        I asked my high school boyfriend if he believed in soul mates and he flat out told me “no”, followed by “But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

        I’m now on his page on soul mates.

      • Sarah

        I loved that movie! I thought it was such an interesting concept–and I really liked the ones who were super young when their timers told them that they were soulmates.

    • meg

      I have this trick where I think, “Self! Remember how hard it was to find a good partner in the first place, and all the work you put into it, and making your relationship good? Do you really want to start that over with the guy in the line in front of you in the supermarket? Do you really think chances are good he’d make just as good a partner? RIGHT. OK THEN.”

      (Also applies to people you know better then the person in line at the supermarket, achem.)

      Though I will note, from what I know, guys don’t even bother feeling guilty about checking out hot people, and imagining whatever, so I try not to feel guilty either. I mean, who does that help?

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        I have no problems at all with checking out eye candy, or of David doing the same. In fact, sometimes we’ll point out people for the other’s perusal. Bonding over the sexy is good for us. And it actually helped me resolve some of my insecurities, in a backwards kind of way…

      • Class of 1980

        Guys NEVER feel guilty about this.

        You know what’s been incredibly revealing? Being in business with a single man.

        He notices all women, and because we are not a couple, he is free to say so. I discovered that he is as likely to say “she’s gorgeous” whether the woman is 20 or 70. He has no age parameters. If you’re gorgeous in his eyes, you’re gorgeous.

        Boy, has this been eye opening and liberating.

        He. just. loves. women.

        • Ari

          Some guys do feel guilty about this.

          (Though I suspect that men are, by and large, culturally conditioned to be less likely to, and to process any guilty feeling very differently.)

  • Lizzie

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with you or your relationship. If you need proof, just do the thought experiment of how it would feel if you were on the brink of engagement with one of these other Possibles and the person you were giving up was your current partner. Chances are you two have already substantially settled into each other (not settled for, settled into), so the though of letting go of that possible version of your life is probably a lot more acutely painful than letting go of the Possibles.

    I personally love having Possibles around. It always is a little bit bittersweet, but I like the reassurance that I’m still out in the world making assessments and forming relationships that could potentially have a romantic dimension the way I was doing for about 10 years as an adult before I got married. Also, it affirms the choice I did make to think that my husband was selected from a field of such interesting options!

    Honestly, I think most people have these thoughts in one form or another and the question is just how open you can or want to be with yourself (and your partner) about them. And there are a lot of ways to answer that question that can work – the only one I don’t recommend is denial.

    • http://ellenmcsweeney.wordpress.com Ellen

      Great comment! Enjoying other people is one of the great pleasures of life. My marriage is very permissive in terms of time spent alone with members of the opposite sex (we each have a couple of great friends we spend time with one-on-one). There’s absolutely an element of attraction and that’s part of what makes those friendships fun. I feel Liz’s advice, and some of these comments, leaned towards “be careful!”, and it’s true, you do have to be careful. But hopefully there’s a way of embracing these feelings as a sign that you’re still alive, still human.

      • meg

        I’m not sure Liz meant “be careful” so much as “know what you’re both comfortable with.” i agree, enjoying other humans over the course of a lifetime is a good thing… but that’s ok in my relationship. We’re comfortable enough with each other to know that hey, people flirt because that’s human nature, no big deal. But you don’t want ONE of you to think that and the OTHER to be devastated by it. So if you don’t know, figure it out first. That’s the kind of careful you should be.

  • Ana

    Our general parameter is that my friends don’t know anything about my feeling/gripes about my partner or our relationship that I haven’t shared with my partner. I’ve seen trouble happen when one or both partners are keeping “secrets” from each other and instead sharing “secrets” with someone else. It works for us to reserve the intimacy of working out our problems with just each other and to try to be honest if something’s up ASAP. That’s not to say that I don’t confess to my friends (including my attractive single friends) about the things about my partner that annoy me, the fights we have, etc, but if it’s not something I’ve already discussed with my partner or I totally plan to go home and share with my partner, I keep it to myself.

    • meg

      I think sometimes this works, but as Liz has pointed out in her writing elsewhere (I think) there are times it doesn’t (Liz, link if I’m right?). There are times when we DO need to discuss problems with someone outside our partnership, and that’s in fact what keeps us safe. So I’d say yes… and sometimes no. It depends.

      I don’t discuss every problem ever with my partner, and sometimes not even with him first. Sometimes I need outside perspective to figure out what I think, or to calm me down, before I go back in for a discussion…. or opt to drop it and NOT have another discussion. Being a closed circle of two for communication, particularly when things are tough, does not always work for me.

      Similarly, I expect him to sometimes run issues through with say, his best friend, if he needs an ear that’s not me (particularly if it’s about me). I’m glad he has that.

      Though, yeah, if he were talking about it with a random hot girl, then, HUM.

      • http://ellenmcsweeney.wordpress.com Ellen

        I agree with that, Meg! Yeah, I think it’s really important to have close relationships where you can talk about your marriage and work things out in your own head/heart before having discussions with your spouse.

      • meredyth

        Meg- I absolutely agree!
        Sometimes I need to discuss things with an outside person who can call me out when I’m not being fair in my stance, or point out where I could think more openly about the issue. I need outside opinions to help me see ourselves more clearly, instead of trying to see things from the wind tunnel that is a conflict my husband and I might be having.

        Sometimes it’s a good friend, or my sister. Sometimes it’s actually my MIL, who obviously knows my huband, for good and bad, and is similar to me in ways that gives her insight into my motives and reasoning. And if she pisses me off (usually for being right but not agreeing with me, but sometimes for talking too much), I can always laugh about it with my husband later, since he knows her good and bad sides too. In fact, I should call her soon.

      • Ana

        Yes, I agree that it’s helpful to have an outside perspective, especially with friends that truly support your relationship (and in my relationship, as long as any new information I uncover with friends is brought back to the circle of two). What gives me pause is the idea that talking about issues in your relationship with the random hot girl or yes, a friend/coworker you would consider dating if you weren’t otherwise attached can create an alliance (real or imagined) against the person who isn’t in the conversation. It could stop being about “Please, help me with this issue and tell me if I’m crazy” and start being about “My partner is the worst and maybe you would be better”.

        • meg

          I do have a general rule about not just bitching about my partner. I’ll bring up a specific issue to discuss with someone I trust, but I try not to just complain about him, ever.

          That said, I totally don’t bring everything I discuss back into the circle of two, and he doesn’t either. We have a firm “some secrets are good for the relationship”, or “You really really don’t have to tell me everything, ” or “Hey, white lies have their place” rule. It’s… helpful.

      • Liz

        Yes! Here, in fact.

        Sometimes I just need to spill my guts, and it won’t further or strengthen my relationship to dump it all on my husband. Other times, I need objectivity. In both cases, having someone outside of everything is so, so nice. And healthy.

        • Copper

          Thank you. A previous partner insisted that nothing in our relationship be discussed with friends, and it was completely stifling. It felt restrictive, and it frankly made me get mad at him more, because there was nobody who could talk me down when I had a crazy-girl thought. Not healthy.

      • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

        Himself and I had one of our very first fights about this — I tend to use my besties as a sounding board, so sometimes I’ll go to them for a reality check and ask, “Am I being crazy? Is this unreasonable?” and I trust that they’ll give me an honest answer. Sometimes I am blowing things out of proportion and taking something to heart when it’s really just a surface-level issue, and other times I’m fully vindicated in my outrage. Then I can go back to himself and change my behavior accordingly. Himself, on the other hand, tends to think of anything going on between us as only our business, to be resolved between us and us only. He will talk to people, but only after the issue has been resolved.

        I agree with you re: talking about each other to close, trusted friends (that the other partner trusts as well!) vs. new people who are muy attractive (in both a physical and emotional sense) and who come into the picture at various points along the road . . . when you’re in a vulnerable position like that, it definitely makes a difference who is in that moment with you.

  • Kelly

    Thank you so much for this post. I think one of the hardest parts of being engaged is that everyone expects you to be happy all the time, but a lot of the engagement period is mourning, too, especially for the things that could have been but won’t be. No matter how secure you are in your choice, there will always be things you’re giving up, and forever is a very very long time! While my partner is everything I need and want, he’s not necessarily the man “I had always dreamed of.” In fact, lots of things about my life and our wedding will be different from my dreams. And while I know this is totally normal, it doesn’t mean it’s not hard to let those dreams go.

    As long as you don’t dwell on these things too long, and at the end of the day know that you’re happy and fulfilled with what you have, I wouldn’t worry about having these totally normal feelings. It’s okay to feel what you feel!

    • oh, meredith

      Amen about engagement being a time of both of celebration but also of mourning. :) I strive to be honest with myself about what I’m feeling. For instance, I mourned the loss of my last name — but I’m not extremely attached to my last name, so it was confusing. Finally I realized that I was sad about losing that connection to my immediate family, where they will all have the same last name and I will be moving into my own little unit away from them. Bittersweet times!

      Also, amen about it being okay to feel what you feel!!!

  • Lethe

    This is a totally normal feeling. It is something I had to grieve as I was preparing to propose. It was most acute right around making the decision to get engaged – which makes total sense. Now, a couple years on, it rarely occurs to me to think about this, I suspect because I allowed myself the space to work through it back then.

  • Ambi

    While he has, thankfully, never made me feel like he is considering potential others, my guy definitely struggles with those life decisions that close off several doors while opening another. He is a real and therapist-diagnosed commitmentphobe, and he really has a hard time letting go of options and opportunities in life, even when he is very excited about his chosen path. So, for example, choosing to go to law school rather than grad school was excruciating for him. He struggled with all the what-ifs of the career he was not choosing, the experience he would have at the other school, etc. The same thing has been true for every job he has ever taken, and in fact, this severe anxiety about committing to one thing and closing the door to all those other possibilities has caused him to take several set-term jobs (for one year, two years, etc.) that he knew would be ending and providing him with the opportunity to do all those other things he was afraid to give up. He has recently taken huge steps – buying a house, getting a job that (if all goes well, and it has for a few years now) will be permanent for the remainder of his career, and making concrete marriage plans. Because we have been together so long, and I have seen him struggle with this issue in the context of work, moves, buying a house, getting a dog, choosing a degree, etc., I no longer take it personally. This is just who he is. I think part of it is that he has always been deeply optimistic and was taught from an early age that he could be and do anything that he ever dreamed of. So, he set his sights high, and as he has grown up he’s struggled to accept and be okay with the idea tha he may not be a congressman AND olympic whitewater rafter AND award-winning novelist AND small farmer AND environmental activist AND dog trainer. And, when I really think about it . . . I kind of love that about him. So, all of this is to say that your thoughts about potential others may be one small sign or symptom of a larger aspect of your personality. If so, just recognize that it can be both great (it keeps you motivated to do and be and have and experience EVERYTHING, which makes you who you are) and it can be bad (if it prevents you from moving forward as to any decision because you’re so worried about the options you are giving up). You don’t seem to be having that much of a problem. I just thought I’d share because I find all of this really interesting and maybe, hopefully, this will give another perspective on your question. Good luck!

    • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

      This is my fiance as well. Knowing this about him and having seen him struggle so much with committing to a career path made it a little bit easier not to take it so personally that he struggled to commit to me as well. It’s just a part of who he is, not a value judgment on our relationship. And it makes it all the more meaningful that he did choose to commit to me, given how difficult it is for him.

      • Ambi

        Exactly! It took us several months of therapy to figure that out – and surprisingly, I think that he needed to realize that this was a part of his personality (and not something personal about our relationship) almost as much as I did. It helped me not to feel rejected by the fact that he hadn’t yet proposed to me, and I think it helped him see that his hesitation about marriage stemmed from a bigger psychological issue and not from something wrong in our relationship. He used to say that, if it was right for us to get married, he should just automatically know – it should just hit him over the head, and suddenly getting married would be the easiest decision he’d ever made. It may be like that for some people, but the therapist helped him realize that NONE of his decisions are ever like that. He has made some great choices that he doesn’t regret one bit, but when he was making them it felt scary and uncomfortable. I think that he had a lightbulb moment when he realized that his anxiety was about decision-making in general, and not about wanting to be with me, and pretty shortly after that he decided that he was ready to talk to my parents about us getting married, so . . . therapy works!

        • Lucy

          I can relate to your fiances! I am torn between several good career options and have worked in a couple of related but different fields, unable to let go of one to commit fully to another… I also really liked the idea of getting married but freaked a little once engaged, as i was committing to forever and mourning the potential other paths. This was despite the face that i was super excited to marry my lovely man. Anyway once we married I totally relaxed, stopped lying awake at night analysing different scenarios… And love being married!

        • LM927

          I think my guy is dealing with similar issues as yours, Ambi, and would appreciate any advice (sorry for the long post)! I think my guy’s problems are more anxiety-oriented than commitment-phobia (though there is some of that as well).

          We’ve been together 5 years and had a wonderful, loving relationship. We talked about marriage and had agreed that this was IT for us. However, recently, when push came to shove, my guy started expressing doubts about getting married, that something didn’t feel “right” and that he loved me immensely but he had doubts. It was so hard to hear – I took it personally and thought he really was changing his mind about the relationship. He, however, was very against breaking up and said that he always saw us together forever.

          But we had just gone through a rough time in our relationship and there was stuff to improve, so we tried to work on our relationship and sort out his doubts for close to a year. I even asked him to see a therapist (which he did), but it didn’t seem to clear anything up. He couldn’t articulate what his doubts were – just that he had them. Sometimes he’d say that he was worried about divorce, sometimes he’d say that maybe life was easier single, and even at times he mused that maybe we were incompatible.

          It was very hard for me. Finally, after not seeing any progress or change even after fixing our relationship issues, I broached the topic of taking a break to sort it through individually. As we talked, he said maybe we could only figure things out if we dated other people. He stressed that he could not even imagine going on a date with someone else and that the thought of me not in his life hurt him endlessly, but he was at his wit’s end trying to figure out these doubts, he didn’t want to string me along, and that maybe this was the only way for him to figure things out.

          So we broke up and in the month since, we’ve only talked once. And when we did talk, he expressed his feelings that he still loved me and missed me, was not planning on dating anyone for a while, but we did the right thing and that maybe we weren’t right for each other. Which hurt a lot.
          .
          Now, after taking time to step back and look at things differently, I really think that his doubts were stemming from his anxiety. He’s always had anxiety, but because it doesn’t manifest itself openly and he does not speak about it EVER it’s very hard for others to realize its effect on him. But it has been there his whole life. He’s always looking at worst-case scenarios and can never fully relax or let stress go. I think he was scared and his anxiety kicked into full-gear after our rough year. Plus, like everyone else he keeps hearing that he should “just know” when it comes to marriage.

          I’m more sure now that his doubts have very little do with me or the relationship, but rather came from his deep-seated anxiety. However, I don’t know how to, as Ambi put it, “help him to see that his hesitation about marriage stemmed from a bigger psychological issue and not from something wrong in our relationship.” A month apart hasn’t changed anything for him and I wonder if that means something. And on top of it all, I sometimes doubt myself and wonder if I’m making this all up.

          It helps me to think about all the other “Possibles” out there, but I chose my guy and after years of growing together and building a life together, I think what we had is worth fighting for. I know I can’t make my guy feel the same way, but is it worth trying to steer him in that direction and how do I do it?

    • Cam in SD

      The last couple of months I have really been struggling with the radical changes I would make given the opportunity to re-decide basically every (already heavily weighed) major decision of my adulthood. The idea of wanting a do-over isn’t foreign at all, I’m always trying to make space for do-overs. I am the person that researches the $50 feature phone offerings for three months, at which point the contenders have been dropped to $29 dollars. And I still don’t buy until my existing actually phone stops working.

      But apparently I just decided to examine that tendency with regard to marriage and I’m basically terrified about the implications that might have for married life. (Which start in 9 days, btw. That is when the metaphorical phone stops working and a mixed metaphorical trigger must be pulled.)

      And it *is* such a personality/mindset thing, sometimes — it’s not like anything remotely terrible has come of any of these decisions I agonize over.

  • Kess

    I think this is a feeling I’ll almost always have as someone whose first boyfriend is the person I plan on marrying.

    For me, it’s enough that I realize that my SO is as good of a person as I could ever hope to find. We mesh really well, and I love him to bits. Could I have a relationship with other people? Oh, probably. Would that relationship be different? Certainly. Would certain portions of the relationship be better? Of course, but then certain parts of the relationship would also be worse.

    Overall, I think I’ve got the best guy possible. I just cannot imagine a relationship that’s really ‘better’ than the one I have now. There are other guys out there that are just as good, but different. But I don’t have a history with them, and I didn’t choose them.

    When we do eventually get married, I think that’s going to be part of my vows – the choosing to be with him.

    • Andyourbirdcansing

      I can’t exactly this enough, as another who is about to marry (this Saturday!) my first/only boyfriend. I feel like it’s given me extra practice because I’ve been dealing with this for the 6 years we’ve been dating, not just since we’ve been engaged.

      As soon as I knew that this might be the man I wanted to marry, I went through a phase of wishing he had not been my only boyfriend ever, to the point that I’d fantasize about dating some other acquaintance that I would date if I were single. It was early enough in the relationship (as in, we had not yet made a lifelong commitment to each other) that I could have really acted on these fantasies.

      But the fantasy relationships would always end with me wanting to go back to the boyfriend, and that relationship being ruined by how much I hurt him by leaving. It made me realize real fast that no other guy is worth losing my soon-to-be-husband over, especially not just for the sake of having dated more than one man. Nobody is making me marry my first boyfriend – it truly is my conscious choice.

  • Rowan

    I absolutely agree with what everyone is saying (it can be normal), but. But be careful you are not talking yourself into marrying this guy. We often have a way to talk ourselves into doing something that our gut is saying is not right, especially once the (wedding/school/etc) train has left. It is too hard to get off/hurt people’s feelings/waste money/etc.

    If your wandering eye is in fact your gut saying something is not quite right, listen! Calling off a wedding is a lot easier than divorce.

    Good luck!

    • bessalita

      While I completely agree with Rowan – one certainly doesn’t want to rush into marriage for the sake of staying with a decision already made – I do think that generally the choosing, and mourning the closing of other doors, is a common feeling. I also know that, for me, the “make sure it’s not your gut telling you not to marry this guy” is really scary. Because I’m a person who will always have questions and worry — I’m anxious by nature. Fear can seem an awful lot like one’s “gut” and it can get confusing. But, for me at least, I have to remind myself in the midst of that fear that marrying my partner IS a big decision, that OF COURSE I’m worried/ anxious and that having doubts DOES NOT mean that it’s not right. It just means that I’m me. And getting engaged has not magically changed how I react to things.

    • meg

      True! If this question had had a different tone, a “I’m talking myself into this tone,” I think our answer would have been TOTALLY different. But in this case it just seemed like the normal human reality of knowing there are lots of fish in the sea, and wondering if it’s sad to pick just one fishy to make it yours.

  • Rebecca

    I love this topic! When I got engaged I definitely had a “mourning period” for all the other lives and lovers I may have had. I felt SO guilty about feeling this way because it didnt really seem allowed or “normal”. Everyone sort of expects you to see your partner as the only and best choice you have had or could ever have.

    After a lot of self reflecting, I slowly came to to realize that while there are many other lives that I could have chosen, I am excited to be choosing this one with my fiance. No matter who you end up with, or what you do, there will always and forever be other unknown options so why not choose one that you’re crazy about and whose ideals and passions align with you own. There will always be some risk taking involved.

    • http://turningtoward.blogspot.com Kara H.

      The engagement period has been a time of mourning for me too. I love my FH, but getting married at this point in my life was not in my original ‘life plan.’ For me, it’s not been so much about potential others as its been about potential life paths– I was an extremely independent single girl, and I was entertaining all sorts of ideas about working abroad, doing my graduate studies overseas, travelling, and other things. And I can still do these sorts of things (I’m in the process of applying to an international development consulting firm– eee!), but they look a bit different now that there’s two of us. We’re working on fitting our goals and dreams together now, and that means some sacrifices on both of our parts. So for me it’s been a period of mourning the potential forks my life could have taken. I’ve been fortunate to have a few friends who have trod the marriage path before me and reminded me that this is normal. I love the link to Lauren’s post: big transitions, even incredibly happy ones, are bittersweet.

  • KC

    I… don’t really do this, but:
    a) I tend to respond more in the choice=done side of things (re: college, re: job, etc.) – I’ll agonize about a decision until it’s settled/decided, and then move on, for the most part.
    b) Guys who are even remotely plausible are extremely few and far between, and are getting even more conceptually farther away the longer I’m married (yeesh, trying to get a different permanent-partner caught up on my life-to-this-point? What a pain in the neck! Going *again* through the Great Training Adjustment Period wherein you learn each others’ quirks and preferences for toothpaste and everything and get more and more and more comfy with and “into” each other? Noooo!)

    But related to a) – is this how you are generally with Major Life Fork-in-the-Road things. And related to b) – have you always seen occasional other possibilities? If so, I *really* wouldn’t worry.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

  • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

    I understand the feeling of having other Possibles out there. When I met my current boyfriend (three years down, planning on a lifetime to go), a very close friend who I consider a Possible decided to ask me out- which he did, literally as I was walking out the door for my second date with current bf. It was terrible timing, but I had already come to the conclusion that my friend was not going to be a romantic partner for me. We “connected” in a real way, but it just didn’t feel right in that can-only-be-explained-by-your-gut kind of way. Telling my friend that I was choosing someone else was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. I watched his heart break right in front of me, and eventually he decided that it was too painful to remain friends with me.

    Despite all this (and despite another close guy friend whom I also consider a Possible), I have never regretted choosing my current relationship, even in its baby stage. Could I still be happy with those other guys? Probably, but I think of it as a timing issue. Either I or they were not in the right place- mentally or emotionally- at the time, therefore, it wasn’t “meant to be.” In one case, my head was reeling with some mental health issues, and in other, he was reeling with some major life-transition issues. Whereas, with current bf, our timing always seemed just right- we both took very different paths before we met each other, and some parts of our relationship seem rushed on paper, but it always absolutely passed the gut-check.

    Whenever I think about my current relationship- its beginning butterflies time, dating long distance, my emotional roller coaster of the past year- I can’t imagine being that intimate with anyone else. My Possibles were great friends, of course I was confident they would by there for me in any hypothetical situation! But at the end of the day, I can’t imagine sharing my deepest, truest self with anyone else.

    • rys

      This is so interesting to read, a week after I broached the conversation with someone who entered my life a few months ago, quickly became a very close friend, and I thought was a Possible. He responded with something between No and I Don’t Know, and I’ve been wrestling all week with what this means, especially as he has continued to seek me out and spend a lot of time with me.

      As a very single person, it’s often hard for me to remember that there are any number of people out there for me, and I just need to find them (or maybe they’d like to find me?). It’s both very hard and very refreshing to read about already-coupled people having other Possibles in their lives, but I’m trying to use it to make myself recall and maybe even believe that among the Possibles out there, there is at least one for me. Maybe that’s selfish read of this post, but I need something to hang on to right now.

      • oh, meredith

        I believe that things in life come in waves. I have experienced both the very single and no prospects phase, and the it’s raining men phase. The most helpful thing for me in my painfully single phase was to think about the things I could do for myself – especially things that I might not be able to do if I were coupled – and start doing them. For instance, I could sit in my pajamas for 4 hours watching sappy movies and no one would judge. ;) Or plan an amazing trip without having to worry about whether it was someplace that an SO would want to go / was free to go / insert other concern here.

        Having said all of that, it can be so hard when you want to find someone and they’re MIA. I feel for you!!!

        • meg

          God the PHASES. It’s always been one or the other for me. Nada, or raining men. (Though oddly, even though I had lots of single years all in a stretch, I found them wonderful, not painful. I had a strong feeling they were not going to last foreverever, so I was going to SUCK EVERY POSSIBLE THING I COULD OUT OF THEM. And I’m so glad I did.)

          Anyway, to everything there is a season, for SERIOUS y’all.

      • Liz

        Ugh, dating sucks sometimes. Good luck, rys.

        • rys

          Thanks Oh, Meredith and Liz. I’ve found reading APW has given me a language I can use to discuss and think through my (sometimes very frustrating) single life, and I am incredibly thankful for and appreciative of that, as well as the support more generally.

      • Not Sarah

        I’ve been there, Rys. Many times. Most of my relationships have been with Possibles who were previously friends and I thought the timing was good. One of the things I will do with a Possible is that I will prioritize him until I decide it’s not going to work.

        In April/May, I started something with a Possible who I wasn’t in love with (yet). And then his timing was TERRIBLE. New roommate, brother visiting for a MONTH, changing jobs without warning. That was really, really upsetting for me. I had prioritized him, said no to dates with cute guys, and the timing wasn’t good on his end. So I guess that means I wasn’t meant to be with him romantically, but I mourned his friendship for several months. (I had known him for about 4 years.)

        Maybe he’s not sure if you’re a Possible? Maybe he’s not ready for a serious relationship? But most of all, protect yourself. If you need a firm answer, come up with a timeframe and tell him that. If you need to not see him anymore as friends, tell him that. It sucks no matter what, but your first responsibility in life is to protect yourself.

        • rys

          You’re very perceptive — I think he’s not sure I’m a Possible and the timing is imperfect. He moved to my town 3 months ago (but multiple people put us in touch ahead of time — part of what made me think he was a Possible) for a new job so there’s lots of newness in his life (but not mine). It also turns out he had broken up with someone in the spring (which I didn’t know and no one mentioned in the “cute, single guy moving to your town” connections).

          What I’m trying to work through is the disjuncture between his words and his behavior. He vacillated between a “I don’t see it happening” and “I’m not ready” answer (which is fine, he may well be unsure). But since then, he has reached out to me and then seen me multiple times (in the span of a week). Including stopping by to see if I wanted to go for a walk (I wasn’t home, my roommate was), and hanging out alone for almost an hour after a group event, on a weeknight. These are the sorts of things I would do if I were interested in someone, not the sort of things I would do if I wanted to demonstrate “just friends.” But he may not think like me.

          The hardest thing right now is figuring out what I want out of this. I don’t want to close off an otherwise good friendship, but he has filled a space I really want filled — the person to go on hikes with, work in a coffeeshop with, spend an evening cooking with, discuss ideas with, etc. He was the first person I’d met in years whom I just felt immediately comfortable sharing the real me, and early conversations moved as easily around politics and religion as stories about family, friends, jobs, travel, and self-discovery. I even let him see some of the not-best self versions of me (I admit it, I’m a sore loser at Scrabble!). Letting go of that as a Possibility is hard. I probably need to, but I don’t want to. And I kind of can’t believe I just wrote this out and am posting it on the interwebz.

          • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

            Also, talk to him again! After all, if he can’t accept honesty about your feelings, that’s non-Possible behavior from the start. Talk to him in a friendly tone, not a relationship-talk tone and say that you value his friendship, but his actions are confusing you. Phrase it the way you did here- that you see his actions as a sign of romantic interest, but maybe he doesn’t mean them that way. Tell him you understand if he’s uncertain, but hanging out one-on-one is confusing you as well.

            Maybe he can clear up his side of if, maybe not. Maybe you need to hang with him in groups until he figures his own shit out. But you certainly sound sane and reasonable here in your comments, so I’m sure you can talk to him reasonably, too. After all, the only one who can explain his actions is him.

          • Silly Goose

            You know, this sounds eerily like my last bf. So here’s my word of caution.

            I’d been happily single for a while, and got put in touch with a guy moving to my area, via a natioanl group we’re members of. I helped him get settled, and there was quick chemistry. He had just gone through huge changes, and had broken up with a gf about 4mo earlier. I didn’t realize this until too late, after we’d already launched the chemistry into an all-out fling.

            He, unlike your Possible, did not have the wisdom to be hesitant. He gleefully transfered all of his uprooting-induced comfort craving, and his residual gf emotions, to me. What followed was 3 months of passionate intensity and consuming enmeshment. Slowly, we realized that we had essentially doomed our chance, because the foundation we built was an illusion born of emotional needs and baggage. It was hard sobering up, but we did, and after an awkward month of “friendship,” never spoke again.

            So the moral of that story is this: If he is smart enough to recognize that he’s screwed up in the head right now, you need to trust his instinct and thank your lucky stars that he’s not happy to throw you under his emotional bus.

            In fact, the fact that he’s seeking you out means that on some level, he’s actually super curious about your potential. Something real can only be built on a solid foundation, and getting to know each other platonically is a great foundation.

            It needs to be said, it could very well be that he doesn’t end up interested. Who knows! But just from what you said, I’d say he is intrigued and doesn’t want to cut you off, but knows that he’s not solid ground right now. Trust that, and don’t rush. Whatever this ends up being, it’ll develop in its own time.

      • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

        I’m with Oh, Meredith on the waves philosophy.

        I did find this helpful during my time dating: when I pursued activities or encounters with the purpose of finding a man, all of these endeavors, even if they snagged a man, eventually flopped.

        Meeting my Main Squeeze (Save the Last Dance, anyone?) happened when I made the decision to just be incredibly happy with who I am and where I am and to seek more happiness, however that comes. Happy people attract other happy people, right? I still acknowledged that I wanted a relationship, but that didn’t affect my overall contentment with life (friends, school, hobbies, football games, and lazy Sundays). Granted, this philosophy may not work for introverts who derive the most happiness from alone time- I guess that’s the fine print.

        GOOD LUCK. And remember that you’re a fan-freaking-tastic person. Enough that even when a Possible says no, he wavers.

        • meg

          Exactly to all of this.

        • Lynn

          That’s exactly how it worked for me…

        • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

          Um, this possibility totally can and does work for introverts who value their alone time. Or at least it worked for me, and I’m pretty darn introverted. I stopped worrying about wanting a boyfriend and suddenly the man I eventually married appeared.

          • http://www.breakingdownthebank.blogspot.com EmilyEF

            Same here – I’m super introverted, but once I stopped dragging myself to bars and meet-ups and started spending more time reading on my back deck: there he was, grinning at me on the metro on my way home and totally willing to do a quiet lunch instead of happy hour.

      • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

        I’m jealous of all of you women who had a ‘raining men’ phase. That front must’ve passed me by with nothing more than a light drizzle. ;)

        • rys

          Thanks awesome APW listeners and commenters :)

          And Kimberly, you’re not alone, I’m waiting for the raining men phase as well. But I do totally get the be happy with your life and live it to its awesomest. I was in that place this spring/summer and I just need to get back there.

  • http://byjacki.com Jacki

    I think Sharon’s post about this is one of my favorite illustrations about choosing a partner.

    Unless there are problems in your relationship that make you feel your current partner is not the person you should do life with, then all of this seems pretty normal to me. I believe there is someone for everyone, but not ONE someone for everyone – there are probably lots of “someones” I could have a good life with, but Matt is the someone I’ve chosen to have a good life with.

    Our parameters are basically not to do anything with an opposite-sex friend that we wouldn’t be comfortable with each other witnessing. He is very open with me about his communications with his son’s mom to make sure I’m comfortable, and we are just generally very open with each other. So far it is working well!

  • Sass

    This post calls for some Tim Minchin – If I Didn’t Have You – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gaid72fqzNE
    Says it all really.

  • KC

    Oh, also: another thing that may sometimes be at play, that I call the “Uncle Lloyd Problem”, is that some things look better from a social distance. Things/traits/habits that are cute/endearing/funny in someone you’re not affixed to can become things you are embarrassed by in someone you are immediately related to. So: someone else’s Uncle Lloyd tells off-color jokes and dances with a lampshade on his head, and you may think it’s pretty awesome. *Your* Uncle Lloyd does the same thing, and you may be half-laughing, half-trying to encourage him to come down off the table and put that lampshade back on the lamp, it might get damaged… Your brother does the same thing, and you may be dragging him down off the table forcibly. Your spouse does this, and you may be hiding in the bathroom, crying, after yelling at him and tearfully apologizing to the hostess and who knows what.

    A version of this often happens with the not-dating/dating/engagement/marriage process; the ability of someone’s quirks (socks on the floor; table manners; whatever) to embarrass/irritate you sometimes increases as emotional and social distance reduce, which can mean that the person you’re now more attached to can look less appealing all of a sudden, even when they haven’t changed in the least. The prospect of dealing with this minor irritant FOREVER and/or of being perceived as being partly responsible for this potentially socially-slightly-out-there behavior can be… not a pleasant surprise. So, all of a sudden, that person who you’re not attached to, whose habits are *not* under the Uncle Lloyd effect, looks comparatively better, despite not having any fewer annoying personality flaws. So… sometimes that contributes to a grass-is-greener kind of viewpoint – but it’s really only greener from a distance. :-)

    • Jashshea

      Genius!

    • Ambi

      KC, I have thought of this often but never been able to articulate it so well – bravo! I think I will use your exact description to explain this to other people in the future.

      BTW, and I know that everyone has a similar story, but I can attest to the Uncle Loyd Problem – the guy that I was in a very serious relationship with in college was the dance-on-the-table-with-a-lampshade-on-his-head type, and while his friends absolutely loved it about him, and I really found it charming and exciting at first, as we got more and more serious I became frustrated with the fact that, basically, my boyfriend was everyone else’s entertainment. It’s not that I didn’t like being around him, it’s just that I kind of wanted a boyfriend to sit with and hold hands with and make inside jokes to while we watched Mr. Eccentric crack everyone up and act crazy. So, his behavior was fine, if he wasn’t my boyfriend, but not what I was looking for in a partner.

      • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

        That’s such an important realization. Just because he’s not for you, doesn’t mean he’s a bad person or you’re a bad person, it just means you’re both great human beings who shouldn’t be dating.

    • KB

      I am totally using this example from now on!! I also have to add that eventually you may come to miss the aspects of “Uncle Lloyd” about your partner once you’ve managed to convince (or nag) them to act more normal – you then look back on the times that they were crazy/chamging and wonder, “Wow, I wish we could go back to that time when I didn’t care if they had a lampshade on their head…”

      • KC

        Yes! Forcing your partner to change to conform to things (especially the things you don’t personally care about but that are fitting-in sorts of things) can ultimately come back to bite you in a variety of ways (increased insecurity on their part; general not-on-the-same-team-ness), but the eventually-realizing-you-really-miss-the-fart-jokes part (or whatever) is one that most people don’t see coming!

  • margo

    I think it’s telling that this letter didn’t once mention being unhappy in your current relationship. I feel like I am in the same place. I love my SO. I’m happy. I’m ready to plan for forever. But I know that sad feeling of the path not taken. I know there are people out there that I could have been happy and compatible with, that would allow me to be another version of myself and that my choices mean I’ll never meet her. It’s sad and I think it is part of being married, and part of growing up just in general.

    It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to enjoy someone who is not your spouse. It’s ok to let your imagination go without trying to clamp it down with guilt or baggage. Generally speaking I don’t think that relationship fantasies are any more harmful than sexual fantasies. As long as they don’t become replacements for your actual relationship or stop you from enjoying the actual choices you’ve made I fail to see the harm.

    • meg

      This.

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    i don’t think it can be said better: http://youtu.be/KynIKjRwqDI

  • oh, meredith

    I love this whole thread!

    When I was a dewy-eyed young romantic, I believed in soul mates. Now that I’m a slightly cynically-eyed still-mostly-romantic, I believe in romantic probability. Which is to say, with all of the people out there that COULD be a match, some will be a poor fit, some will be an adequate match, some will fit well, and a select few will match wonderfully. Another way I like to think of it is a “square peg, round hole” scenario. I like to think that I’m maybe pentagonally shaped (special snowflake!), so a select few will have the same shape as me. Beyond that, it’s about geography and timing.

    Having said that, knowing yourself and being honest with yourself are critical. If you frequently have decision-making angst, this could be part of that. But if you usually settle on a course and go forth confidently, this should give you pause. I have always had decision-making angst, so it’s no surprise that I occasionally wonder, ‘What if a BETTER fit comes along one day?’ I remind myself that love is an action-word, and it’s also a choice. To me, the commitment is that every day of our lives together, I will choose him.

    • Liz

      I think it’s interesting that the whole soulmate thing is touted as romance. What’s truly romantic to me is knowing that my husband has met and dated and liked and loved different women, could have chosen any of them, but decided to choose me. I know that some of them were funnier, a few may have been smarter, and most were prettier. But he still picked me! There’s such a romance to cynicism sometimes. ;)

      And yes- triple agreed about action-word love!

      • KB

        Aww, Liz, I love that idea – it IS romantic that he dated – or even thought of – all these other people, but decided that you were the one (in the non-soulmate-y sense of the word). I think that’s a lovely and optimistic way of looking at the debate between soulmate and choice :-)

      • meg

        Exactly. What’s really romantic is picking each other even though there is no perfection. I mean, what’s so romantic about picking someone if they are perfect for you in a pre-destined way? Then it’s just not-fucking-it-up. Picking someone and making them yours is so much better.

    • Class of 1980

      I sometimes think two things are true – that there are multiple compatible partners for us, but that the Universe might favor one of them more depending on what we’re here for, and put them into our path.

      We still have the choice to act on it though.

  • KB

    “For your own sanity, you may need to guard your thinking a bit. Realize that these other folks have their own flaws that you haven’t had the chance to see up close.”

    This. I think it’s natural to wonder “What might have been?” for the people who have been in, are currently, and yet to be in your life. Being engaged has made me look up past people on Facebook and go, “Hmm, I wonder…” And then I slap myself upside the head and remind myself of what was so incredibly effing annoying about them and realize, hey, there’s a reason we aren’t together right now – and odds are that has definitely not changed.

    As for the Possibles in your current life – I agree, I think it can be a case of “the grass is greener” for the most part, while acknowledging that you could have a good, albeit totally different relationship with someone else. I don’t think it means that you’re not ready to be committed or your subconscious is trying to tell you something. You’re just recognizing what’s logical and coming to terms with the consequences of making a choice.

    • Liz

      Hahaha, friggin Facebook, man.

    • Class of 1980

      Thanks to Facebook, I discovered that a guy I’d grown up with and had a crush on for decades, had turned out to be incredibly successful … and a total religious fanatic.

      5, 4, 3, 2, 1… POOF! INFATUATION OVER.

      • KB

        HA, I can relate – one of my exes was super religious (in an incredibly off-putting way) when we broke up and, lo and behold, the Almighty Facebook revealed to me that he is STILL, in fact, the same. Totally reaffirmed about eight different decisions in one click.

      • meg

        God, right? Like finding an ex and thinking “WELLLL…. looks like I dodged a bullet right there!”

        • Class of 1980

          You betcha. (said in my best Sarah Palin voice)

      • Not Sarah

        Some of my exes have gotten really ugly (to me). For once, THANK YOU FACEBOOK.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      I’m not on Facebook, but that doesn’t matter — when himself and I were looking for a wedding photographer, I found someone who looked promising. I was looking through her work and saw an old boyfriend of mine . . . in an engagement photo shoot with his fiancee! What’s even weirder is that the shoot was at a location that we were considering for our wedding. I had a slight freak-out (not in a bad way, more in a this is TOO FUNNY! kind of way) and, even though it was about midnight, contacted a friend of mine who knew him back in the day.

      Ha.

  • Dee

    This is one of my very favorite topics, and it’s something my fiance and I just had a good long conversation about the other night.

    We’ve been together for six years. In that time, he and I both have met multiple other possible partners — or least, have experienced that tension feeling that crops up when you’re with someone and there’s a mutual sense of attraction and compatibility. If we weren’t with each other, we might have chosen to go out on a date with one of those folks, to “see where it goes”. But we were with each other, so we didn’t.

    My fiance and I choose to talk about it, when it comes up. We don’t believe in a “the one”, and are pretty confident that since we’ve both experienced tension with other people before, it’ll happen again. So why pretend it won’t ever happen? The important thing is that in the past six years, every time it’s happened, we’ve chosen each other, and not the other possible partner. That’s what our choice to get married is all about. We’re getting married because we cherish the emotional richness that continuously choosing each other has brought, and we want to commit to continuing to choose each other and our love for each other every single day.

  • Caitlyn

    So glad to see all these responses and see that I’m not one of the few. Whenever I meet a new man who I find attractive, I always wonder if we would date if I wasn’t with my guy. And generally, I always eventually learn some really fatal flaw about him, and think, thank god I’m not with someone who does x or thinks y. So I never really mourned losing single-hood while I was engaged although I have lots of issues with commitment. I actually just started the mourning process right after I got married, which was a few weeks ago. It was kind of horrible. I never expected to be married as young as I am, 25, and I was thinking of all the women who are in their 30s and not married yet and still going out and dating, and like that’s over 6years of dating I could still do! Of course I’m completely ignoring the fact that I hate, not being single, but trying to actively date.

  • Leigh Ann

    Liz, great advice about not needing to tell your partner about every little “crush.” When my husband and I were first together I would tell him when I’d met a new co-worker or classmate I thought was really cool — and these were nonsexual crushes, just people I wanted to be around and was really jazzed on — and he just didn’t get it. Now I just enjoy these crushes for myself, because they’re no threat to my husband.

    • Liz

      It’s really dependent on your relationship, too, I think- and working out what parameters make you both feel most secure. My husband and I chat about who we find attractive really naturally, and it actually makes me feel more secure that he can say, “Yeah, she’s gorgeous.”

      But I don’t think I would ever tell him, “I was thinking about so and so coworker today and realized we’d be really compatible if I wasn’t with you,” because. Weird. But, maybe that works for other people! Who knows.

      • Denzi

        Yep, I’m on the other end of the spectrum. Particularly when it comes to crushes or being attracted to people other than my spouse, I *have* to spill. Otherwise it becomes a Big Secret Thing. (Which is funny, because when I was single I was the type to build up crushes by telling EVERYONE and kind of staking my claim–TOTALLY GROSS, younger Denzi!–and now I use it to defuse feelings.)

        Fortunately, this amount of detail works for T. and me, and we both see it as a venting/defusing mechanism and not a threat.

        Ultimately it comes down to what you need and what your partner can comfortably give (and vice versa). I imagine if T. were less comfortable with me telling him every time someone flirts with me, or every time I have a tiny crush, or whatever, and I discovered I still needed to get it out of my head by mentioning it, I would find a safe person (like my therapist, or a straight woman who is married and to whom I am not attracted–hard to find a noncomplicating person when you’re bisexual!) and tell them instead, because I am responsible for getting my needs met in a safe, healthy way, and there are other people in my life in part because one person can’t meet every single need of another person. (The other part of why there are other people in my life is that they are awesome. *g*)

      • meg

        Yeah. I don’t know that I want all that information from my partner, please thanks.

        Though sometimes I like to tell him who he should marry if I die. Because I… yeah, I don’t have any excuse for myself.

        • Emilie

          I definitely do this too.

      • Carrie

        It totally depends on your relationship. My husband and I are both totally okay with the idea that both of us will notice and appreciate attractive people we meet in our daily lives. We discuss this in a sort of abstract way. But neither of us really wants to hear about each other’s specific attractions to real-life people. We’re totally comfortable with it when it’s celebrities — he teases me about Hugh Laurie and David Tennant, I tease him about Tina Fey and Emily Deschanel — but when it’s someone in real life, it just feels a little too scary for both of us. It would make me kind of uncomfortable/nervous to hear him say “My new co-worker So-and-So is super hot! I think I have a little crush on her!” Not that I think he’d actually cheat on me with So-and-So, but the idea is a little too close for my comfort, if that makes sense. And he seems to feel the same way.

        Then again, as I write that out — if he said that during a relaxed conversation where he showed affection, attraction, and intimacy with me, it might actually feel more like it does when he talks about how he’d TOTALLY sleep with Emily Deschanel. I think it’d only feel scary if it was like a Big Serious Dramatic Confession.

        I might have to think about this and maybe talk about it with him. Hmm.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          David honors my Jason Segel crush by buying basically everything the man has ever acted in. Now that’s love. :)

    • Anon

      I second this too. My partner is very… insecure? maybe. I can’t think of a better word. We are both committed to each other, but I think that talking to him about these “crushes” would really hurt him. He’s sensitive to not only me being interested in other men but also men being interested in me. We have a fantastic relationship. We’re very happy, yet this sort of stuff really bothers him. So I keep it to myself. Which I’m totally fine with.

      At a party a few months ago, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while (friend = male). We talked about work, travel, sports… the sorts of things that people who haven’t seen each other talk about. My partner was there for parts of the conversation but also socialized with other people. The next day he said he thought my friend was interested in me and maybe had a crush on me and was really bothered by it. He also made it clear that this wasn’t my fault and I shouldn’t have done anything different as I was just talking. So yeah, know your partner. Mine would be very upset if I said anything about ‘crushes’ even if I made 1 million reassurances that I choose him.

  • http://stalkingsarah.wordpress.com Stalking Sarah

    One of my favorite conversations about relationships was between me and my cousin in law (who’s about 10 years older than I am):

    CIL: So, are you still dating [ex]?
    Me: No, we broke up.
    CIL: Oh, that’s too bad.
    Me: Yeah, I think it could’ve worked, but it just didn’t. It became too hard.
    CIL: I know what you mean. There was a guy I met years before I met you cousin, and I thought he was the one, but the timing just never worked out. But now I have your cousin!

    Her forthrightness in admitting that there had been another Possible before her husband (my relative!) and her that’s-just-how-life-is attitude was really comforting to me in the face of the Soulmate Industrial Complex.

    • Ambi

      Oooh, Soulmate Industrial Complex! Never thought about it like that before, but you’re right. In a very literal sense, there is are entire industries built around convincing us that soulmates exist, and ours could be just around the corner. I’m thinking romantic comedies, dating websites, greeting cards, self-help books, and basically the whole WIC in general. I guess “soulmates” sells better than “two people who agree that life is better together than apart.” I find it really really interesting that, in cultures with arranged marriages, the words used to describe the couple are often things like a “fortuitous match” or “strong compatibility” but in cultures without a tradition of arranged marriage (I can’t bring myself to use terms like “love marriage” or “choice marriage’), we put the added pressure on singles to find “the one.”

      • SomeOther Hilary

        Oh my gosh I want to “exactly” your whole faces! The soulmate industrial complex. I may scheme this into a post? Because holy potentially (and sometimes actually) damaging. LETS TALK ABOUT SOME DATING WEBSITES PEOPLE.

        • http://www.stalkingsarah.com Stalking Sarah

          Yes! I would read that post!

      • Copper

        I love SIC as a concept, I think I’m going to start using it in daily life. I had a big letdown when I discovered that I’d been held captive by the SIC… dated one guy for 6 1/2 years, he was my first, thought we were forever, and then… he just “fell out of love”. Well, not just, but that’s the important part. I was so crushed for soooo long, to the point that I was the person people tip-toed around, not knowing whether they should keep information from me, and it was totally because I really believed in The One, and believed he was my One, and even though I could rationally believe that I was better off, etc. etc. some part of my was stuck in, “but I just can’t believe this. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” I couldn’t move on, because I believed so strongly that there was one path that my life was supposed to follow. Even after meeting a wonderful new man and falling in love with him, I remember having a moment when I finally realized that this is how I’d been thinking about life and needing time to resolve the internal conflict of the new love and the old love.

        What. A. Waste. I am an otherwise rational being, and cannot believe I fell for that crap, and I let it waste so much of my time. This is so damaging to people (but especially women, I think, because we’re taught to sacrifice for love, to wait for love, etc. to such a great extent), because eventually we’re all going to be faced with situations that show us that this shit is not real.

        Now, I remember seeing one of those silly images of dogs with text over them, and it said “This is my human. There are many like him, but this one is mine.” and that describes more how I think of things, post-SIC.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so grateful for this post, especially for the naming of the phenomenon that is Possibles. (Let’s make that a permanent addition to the APW lexicon, please!)

    A couple months before our wedding, I noticed that I felt attracted to someone who was *GASP* not my partner. I didn’t have the words to explain what I was feeling, and the non-APW internet gave me the message of, “If you’re attracted to someone else, it’s probably a symptom of a greater problem.” But it wasn’t! I love/d my partner and was so excited to be married! I wish that I had had this post to read then; it would’ve been so comforting to me.

    (As for what I did, I wound up discussing it with my partner because I couldn’t bear not to, but the Possible feeling eventually went away (because in the end, it was a total school-girl crush kind of Possible feeling) and it all became a non-issue. And I got married. And I was happy.)

    • meg

      Possibles!

  • eva

    “Do you and your partner have parameters for friendships outside of your relationship?”

    Yes. We are not monogamous, and our parameters are very, very complicated (and a good fit for both of our needs).

    • Ambi

      If you’d be willing to write a post about this, I would love to read it.

      • http://www.stalkingsarah.com Stalking Sarah

        This

    • Anon

      Please, please, please consider writing a post!

    • Sam

      Seriously, I need that post. My fiance would be willing to do the non-mongomy or group exploration thing, but I just can’t wrap my head around it. What with a woman’s tendency to form attachments to those we have sex with, how can I promise to come home and be emotionally faithful if I’m intimate with someone else?

      And sometimes I really think it would be good for me, because I am having a LOT of anxiety about… Well basically everything that has been said. Is it my anxious nature that is causing these questions? A known but not fulfilled attraction to women (I’ve only ever been with men, though I’ve kissed a woman. But mostly I think it’s pure fantasy. And the SO totally knows btw)? Or am I simply making up excuses to be anxious because of something deeper? Or is it simply a general dissatisfaction in my life due to moving to a new town for him, not working in the best place for my career and having an impossibly hard time finding new and supportive women to lean on and work this through with.

      Ok, tangent. Sorry. But I would like to read about how non-monogomy works for you!

  • http://dinerlove.com SteffanyF

    I think about this alllllll the timmmmeeeee. But yeah, in the end, it comes down to who you choose, and maybe spending a little time mourning the choices you didn’t make.
    It sounds…kind of ridiculous, but sometimes I am comforted by the thought of divorce. Not to say that I want one, more to remind myself that I choose my husband every day. When we got married suddenly everything felt really scary and permanent (I think this is supposed to be comforting but it wasn’t for me) and it helps to remind myself that I really don’t HAVE to be here. I choose to be here because I love him and want to spend my life with him, and no one else. Yes?

    • Carrie

      I totally, totally understand this.

      From the beginning of my relationship with my now-husband. we’ve periodically said to each other “You know, if we broke up tomorrow, I’d be okay. I’d be sad for a while, but I’d go on with my life. I’m with you because being with you is good, because it makes me happy to be with you — not because I feel like I have to be with you or my life is over.” And that’s always been one of the most profound professions of love for us.

      Before I met my now-husband, I was in a seriously messed-up relationship where I really did feel like I had to be with that person because I had no other option. I felt like in order to be a whole person, I had to be with him. No matter how miserable I was with him I had to find some way to stick it out, like the relationship was an end unto itself and I had a duty to sacrifice everything in order to keep it going. It was awful. That relationship had to come to a fiery crashing end before I could realize that I am a whole person all by myself, and that loving someone shouldn’t mean being totally dependent on them for your sense of self and self-worth.

      I think some people think of marriage as that kind of relationship — where “the marriage” is a thing unto itself and even if you’re miserable all the time, you have an obligation and duty to keep “the marriage” going. That sounds scary and awful to me.

      So yeah. Just like “If we broke up, I’d be okay; I’m with you because I want to be” was a comforting, loving thing for us to say to each other, so is “If we got divorced, I’d be okay; I’m married to you because I want to be.”

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        “You know, if we broke up tomorrow, I’d be okay. I’d be sad for a while, but I’d go on with my life. I’m with you because being with you is good, because it makes me happy to be with you — not because I feel like I have to be with you or my life is over.”

        I like your view of romance.

      • Audrey

        We don’t harp on it, but one of the ways I knew my husband was for me was when we discussed this early in the relationship. It came up in the context of a song or something, and we both agreed that in a healthy relationship you *could* survive/live on without the other person. You just really really don’t want to.

        • Sarah

          I said this exact thing to a friend having relationship troubles! He said: “Don’t you want to be needed by your fiance?” And the answer was that actually, I really didn’t. I don’t believe in the concept of the “other half” — we should all be whole people, all by ourselves, before we consider tripping into a relationship. I love knowing that my fiance and I could carry on apart. We just don’t want to.

  • R

    APW, it’s like you’re in my head. I’m engaged and going through very similar feelings as the original writer. It’s so reassuring to read the rest of the comments and feel like I’m not alone – and better yet, that I’m not a bad person for having these thoughts. I really think that there is some assumption among people, society, whomever, that your SO is the ONLY person you’ll ever have feelings for or be attracted to, and if you DO have those feelings, you’re doing something wrong. I don’t believe that (because I don’t believe in the concept of the “one”), but I think that (at least in my social group) it’s frowned upon to even bring up these feelings. Which sucks, because if we could just be open about them, at least with our friends, I think it would have a better outcome in the long run.

    I also like the title of Possibles. It’s not even necessarily that I would want relationships with any of these people, but there’s something sad about knowing you’ll never have another first date, another first kiss, etc. There can be a certain magic in the beginning of a relationship, and it feels weird to know that specific magic won’t happen again.

  • Alyssa

    Oh boy do I know the feeling…married my high school sweetheart, my one and only, after nine years together. Without open and honest communication, I’d go crazy with worry and guilt. Definitely bring this up before engagement, you’ll probably feel a whole lot better about the whole thing. The guilt, while irrational since this is so natural, otherwise gets overwhelming

    I also agree that you should have a serious talk about parameters, and don’t forget, relationships are incredibly dynamic, so keep updated on our another. We are monogamous, but with the understanding that this is open to discussion (especially given the whole one and only), and honestly, once I knew changing was on the table, the formerly forbidden other potential partners became much less tempting.

    • Kelly

      I would love a post about marrying your “one and only” and all that challenges that come with that. It’s so romanticized, but a tough position when you’re in it. Does anyone know if there have been any posts on APW about this before? Link?

  • Rachel

    Per usual APW form, this topic was published at a time just when I needed to hear it. Reading other people’s stories always helps me get out of my own head a little bit and normalize my feelings.

    I would add to this discussion that particularly in this day of age, social media does NOT help with my occasional wandering eye/what-could-have-been sort of thinking. I have found that people do not drift in and out of my life as easily as they perhaps once did during my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. I will definitely apply the measuring stick of “If I would not say or do this in front of my significant other, I shouldn’t say or do it” to ALL forms of communication, and be more intentional about “cutting out” people when needed.

  • Sophie

    My fiance has several female friends and business associates and works in a field where he comes in contact with lots of people. His personal rule is to never say anything to them or take any action that he wouldn’t be comfortable saying or doing in front of me, even if I’m not present. I think this is a sensible rule and certainly sets clear parameters for him. I’m in a field that keeps my circle of contact much smaller, but I follow the same guideline.

  • AS

    I, too, have struggled with the loss of possible futures, CC. You are not alone in this, but what I find most helpful is to think about other situations of choice, big and small.

    How do you decide between one meal option and another? How do you choose between two different bedspreads? What about books to read? College majors? Adopting one animal over another?

    Some of these seem really frivolous and small when comparing them to picking a life partner (after all, you can always opt for pasta tomorrow and chicken today), but the end result is the same: you choose what is right for you in that moment. Yes, you might regret choosing plaid over paisley, but I think you’re probably putting a bit more time and effort into the decision of partner than fabric patterns.

    Someone else may be an equally good or better fit in the long run, sure, but we’re not clairvoyant and we can’t know that ahead of time. Furthermore, if we spend all our time second guessing ourselves over choices we’ve already made we don’t get a chance to reap the rewards of those selections. Instead, we constantly live with regret.

    Like I said, I struggle with this too, and the thing that always helps me is remembering everything I said and also that I am happy, and that is what matters.

  • Kay

    I keep starting a comment and deleting it because I am still all wrapped up with guilt and shame and fear over thinking about other Possibles. What makes it even more ridiculous is there aren’t even any actually people out there that I’m thinking about. It’s imaginary ones. Even though I love my partner, and can’t imagine life without him, I can’t help thinking sometimes how much simpler it would have been if I’d fallen in love with someone who would have made things a little *easier* – someone whose finances were as strong as mine, whose family spoke the same language as me, who liked crossword puzzles or playing bridge or whatever ridiculous standard I’m applying on the day in question. Every once in a while I wake up in the middle of the night in terror that I’m going to marry someone who isn’t “perfect”, and that I’m not supposed to experience these doubts. The fact that I’ve never met a person who had all those things and was still as sweet and loving and frankly awesome as my partner doesn’t seem to matter. I do this maddening obsessive self-questioning about every significant life decision, but this feels worse. I wish I could either banish those thoughts, or let go of the guilt and accept myself in all my indecisive glory, but I can’t seem to do it! I hope this is normal.

    • sarahmrose

      I get this fear. I struggled through a similar feelings for a while…for me, it was mainly about writing. I love writing, language, and words — for example, I love writing love letters.

      My dear husband doesn’t really care about writing (when I went to his apartment for the first time I was struck by the fact that he didn’t own any fiction whatsoever).

      It’s taken me a lot of time to realize that, even become a writer, he is not going to appreciate or admire or even criticize my writing in the way that the future husband that I had imagined would. And while I still love writing love letters, I know that he is probably going to toss it to the side after reading it (I have a giant box under my bed of old letters and diaries and knicknacks).

      What’s made the difference, for me, is in changing how I think about what a relationship is. I think of things often in metaphors images, and I think I used to associate my future perfect relationship with something like a jigsaw puzzle: two people that fit together, that filled each other’s gaps and matched one for one. But with him, I’ve come to see that a relationship can instead be like vines or ivy, growing and twisting and wrapping around each other to reach forward, to support each other.

      I know we say it a lot, but it’s still hard to get it to sink in: there’s no such thing as perfect. Like, literally. I have no idea what it would be! How do I know, after all, that my imaginary FH who also loves fiction is as good/better than having one who doesn’t??

      But also, if you’re struggling over the guilt with this feeling, definitely read this post: http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/10/reclaiming-wife-the-road-not-taken/ And then try to get the book that she quotes. It was kind of life-changing for me.

      • Kelly

        This is fascinating. I LOVE the metaphor of vines/ivy rather than puzzle pieces. This issue is one I am struggling with as well, and it definitely gives me something to think about.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    We’ve been talking in our house this week about how you choose to love the person you’re with (that whole “falling” nonsense makes it sound like loving someone is a happy little accident that you didn’t see coming, like the slight bump in the sidewalk that catches you off guard). You choose to love them. You choose to marry them. And then you spend the rest of forever making those exact same choices every single day. The choice gets easier the more you make it. But if you were to not make it for several many days in a row, it would be harder to make again. As long as you are both choosing to love and marry each other every day, that’s what matters.

    • SomeOther Hilary

      Exactly, Giggles. Nobody falls. We jump!

      • http://www.stalkingsarah.com Stalking Sarah

        My love analogy is always the same — like jumping off a cliff, with wings.

        As long as everyone keeps flapping, we all get to soar.

    • meg

      This. This is what a marriage is.

    • HH

      beautifully put.

  • Carrie

    In my mid-twenties, I went through a slow, multi-year period of mourning the might-have-beens — not just other relationships that might have been, but other life paths that might have been. For me, it took the form of feeling sad and frustrated that I’d always made the “good, smart, prudent” decision and denied myself so many fun, stupid risks. I’d always stayed faithful to him and denied all other attractions even in the early part of our relationship, when it would’ve been okay to break up because I wanted to date someone else. I’d taken a decent-paying first job in the same town where I went to school, rather than doing what I’d dreamed of doing and moving to my favorite city and trying to find a job there. I’d gotten into grad school in my dream city and in my hometown, and chose the school in my hometown because it offered better opportunities in my preferred research field and the cost of living was much lower. I felt trapped in a life that wasn’t really bringing me a lot of joy and I fantasized about esccape, running away and just doing everything differently.

    During that time, I felt super conflicted about marrying my boyfriend. Some days I really wanted to get married, to hear the affirmation that he loved me and wanted to be with me. Some days I freaked out because I’d been dating him since I was 18 and could I really handle never ever dating anyone else in my whole life? Some days the idea of marriage terrified me because it felt like saying “Okay, nothing will ever change again” and that idea just felt awful.

    But at the end of that process, it all settled to a really deep, strong knowledge that yes, I really, really did want to marry him. I realized my sense of feeling trapped and unhappy wasn’t about being with him; it was about the other parts of my life. I came to realize there was still space and time and ways to pursue a life that would make me happy — a career, a place to live, hobbies that would bring me joy. And when I thought about doing that, I realized that I wanted to live that life with him. I realized that he wanted to pursue the same kind of life I did, and that he was excited and supportive and cheering me on in going after my happiness. That was when I decided I wanted to propose.

    It was a scary process to go through, though, and I can only imagine it would’ve been scarier if it had happened after we got engaged.

    I guess my advice here is, consider the possibility that this feeling may come partially from mourning roads not taken in other parts of your life, too — school, career, location, etc. It might be worthwhile to figure out a way to pursue something new in those other parts of your life that makes you excited and happy and joyful — to prove to yourself that there are still new adventures you can take.

    Maybe this isn’t at all the case for you, and it genuinely is about mourning romantic-possibility roads not taken. But it’s a suggestion I thought might be worth sharing.

    • Sam

      Carrie,

      I am in the middle of sorting all these same feelings out and I truly appreciate your words. It’s sometimes hard to decipher out which crappy depressed feelings are about the SO directly, which are about mourning romantic Possibles, which are about other parts of my life, and which are just ‘fuck this wedding planning bullshit and lets elope b/c our parents are howling at our proposed date because it unluckily happens to fall on Yom Kippur’!

      All I know is that if I can’t find a way to shake this, I feel like I might suffocate. So thanks for reminding me of all that can be and that there can still be infinite possibilities for my life with (or without) him and it’s just comes down to whether I want to do this life with him by my side.

  • Jane

    I’ve been lurking APW for a few months now, bought the book a few weeks ago, and have to say that every post I read has brought my more relief and healing about reclaiming and keeping my sanity and self through this wedding planning process.

    And now this article. I started crying when I read “Noticing that this possibility exists—that there might be someone else out there with whom you could also have a pretty awesome go at it—that’s not a red flag that something’s wrong with what you already have. It’s just fact.” Because I have been struggling with this exact same questions and thoughts as CC. When I mentioned to my fiance that I don’t really believe in soulmates, that there are probably other guys out there that I COULD have had a successful relationship if not marriage with – he was a little hurt (I tried to phrase it as ‘theoretically’ as possible, but I get why he was a bit insulted). But I was telling my truth – I know I’m choosing. And since my current fiancee is my first and only boyfriend – I have a intermittent fleeting thoughts about the “guys that could have been”. It was tears of relief when you wrote that it’s not a red flag. That it is a choice. And I do choose my guy, with all my heart.

    So thanks for once again making me feel less alone APW. Thank you so much

  • Peg

    Liz, you totally nailed this one! i love this response, so true and so practical!

  • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

    This just struck me as I read through the comments. If we’re talking about Possibles that don’t work for whatever reason: fatal flaw, bad timing, geography, etc. Then your partner is *someone else’s* Possible too. And it wouldn’t work out because their timing was bad. Or what that person perceived as a fatal flaw is no big deal to you.

    • HH

      Whoa.

      That’s crazy true. So funny how we never look at it that way!

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      I am continually grateful that David’s serious long term girlfriend before me didn’t seem to realize how totally amazing he is and therefore he was single when I showed up.

      • One More Sara

        I think this is the reason we get jealous/competitive with partner’s exes. I think my man is pretty awesome and I love him a lot. I don’t see a reason that I should stop loving him, so why would his ex stop loving him? She must still love him. I must hate her. BUT, in reality, there really was something wrong between them. And she (probably) doesn’t still love him. And he is still choosing me every day, making her feelings about him more or less moot.

  • ANON

    This has been a HUGE issue for me. My boyfriend, with whom I live and share finances, is ready to be married yesterday… and I am totally not. Part of what makes it difficult for me to take the plunge is not being able to let go of all the Possibles. Being a serious social salsa dancer (I perform and teach as well as go out several nights a week for fun) I am in the unique position of having fairly intimate physical contact with multitudes of people, which I tend to think is a positive rather than a negative. It gives me the chance to enjoy other people in a structured and respectful way, but sometimes it makes me feel restricted by my relationship.

    On the flip side, it can make me really appreciate the man I’m with. Most of the people in the social dance scene are single and often complaining about how hard it is to find someone who’s worth more than a couple hot dates. Coming home to someone completely removed from that scene (he doesn’t dance at all and never comes out with me) and who has loved me for four years is a really warm, fuzzy feeling.

    • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

      I, too, am an avid social dancer- though swingdance is my jam. Social dance has been a huge influence in my life and in my perspective on romance, flirting, and physical contact. My SO doesn’t dance either, though would like to learn (I just fear that I won’t be good enough teacher, and he’ll be a bad dancer because of me). I explained to him early on that a dance is just a dance. Part of the fun is the “character” of the dance, whether thats playful, flirty, or sultry- but it’s a character on the floor. He understood this and though I know a couple of times he had to remind himself of it, he enjoys seeing me enjoy myself.

      I think social dance gives you a great way to “indulge” those Possibles in the structured way you mention. When I’m on the floor, I’m a performer- even if my partner is my only audience. I embrace the performance, live that character that’s madly in love or a total diva, allowing those parts of my personality to take center stage. Then I thank my partner for the dance, and go back to being me, all of those wonderful characters all at once, with the one person who embraces all of them at the same time.

  • Lola

    I went through a similar mourning period as a lot of other people have talked about, realizing and noticing the “Possibles”…but then one day, thinking back to the beginning of the wonderful relationship I have with my husband, I realized that a good chunk of the sadness I feel is simply wishing I could rewind and have that first part again.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love where we are now — we know each other so well, we support each other, we are helping each other grow into our best selves. We’re a team in every sense.

    But those first days and weeks when you meet a Possible, when you start falling in love…it’s so heady, so BIG compared to everything else, with that joyful/terrified feeling of, “Could this be it?” It’s literally a life-changing moment, and those don’t come along that many times in our lives.

    • Copper

      This! For me, it’s just before the first time you sleep with someone, when you have a moment that makes you think, “oh yeah, it’s on. This is going to happen.” I love that moment, I’m a little addicted to that moment. But by definition, it only happens once in the course of a relationship. So I’ve had to give myself permission to remember those moments I’ve had (including with my partner, but also previous) and enjoy them and not feel like I’m committing thought-crime by doing so.

  • Lynn

    The idea that marriage is a choice we make was incorporated into my vows…the fact that I was choosing Pooh and making the decision to be with him and that our commitment was *a choice* is important to me. Perhaps because I struggled so with the choice.

    I had More Than Possible while Pooh and I were together. Totally IN LOVE with him. Totally IN LOVE with Pooh. It took me a long time to come to that realization because the cultural narrative about romantic love and one person. But when I figured it out, it was like, “Oh. That’s what this is.” And then it was, “Oh. Hell.” Because that wasn’t OK with either of them. It was painful for all of us.

    There are a lot of reasons why Pooh was the one I choose, but I think about the More Than Possible every day. I keep choosing Pooh.

    • CAM in SD

      Me, too. I’ve been choosing my Choice for almost five years now, but still think of the other daily. Reiterating my choice to him, the other, after I got engaged and again earlier this month was as excruciating as the first time I did it. I think my marriage will mean we’re out of each other’s lives for good, and that loss is keenly felt despite how much promise my Choice holds.

  • Sarah

    I’ve definitely been in this situation. My fiance was my first “real” boyfriend. I had another in high school, but I never really cared for him. But I met him my freshman year at college (a hippie liberal feminist school at that). He broke up with me first, after only a short time. The second time was more serious, but I started feeling sheltered. What was I missing? I broke up with him but we remained friends. I went off and traveled. We dated, we slept around, we graduated college, and we were “best friends.” We shared everything with each other as friends. And I traveled (something he wouldn’t do, and was a deal breaker). And then he agreed to come visit me in Europe, I met a lot of other guys, and no one just “got me”. And the choice was obvious after that. Of course, we still moved in together and almost killed each other for 2 years in a tiny apartment. It’s about finding the one that may irritate you to no end but the second they are gone, you don’t know how to function. It’s a compromise, it takes work, and I definitely encourage working out these feelings BEFORE getting engaged. In the end, breaking up was something I will never regret. I could be independent, he matured by a ton and eventually he came to Europe and I was able to share something so important to me that he had always rejected. So maybe a little over romantic, but if it’s meant to be…it’s meant to be. I don’t agree with “one soulmate” but I do believe in the one person, no matter how irritating and infuriating, seems to get you more than anyone else.

  • http://goo.gl/PPO2t mysticalmomentsindia

    Very beautiful image..diserve as to win photo of the weeks

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