It would be a bad time to break up

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Dear Meredith,

I am a 26-year-old woman and have been with my partner for over five years now. We moved in together almost immediately, and have had very little drama during the time we have been together. We get along about as well as any two humans can. I have so much love and appreciation for him.

Here’s the problem: I do not feel like our relationship is a romantic one. We do not have sex all that often, and lately I haven't been feeling like being intimate with him at all. We aren’t that physically affectionate with one another and never really have been (or at least not to the degree that I am used to being with partners). In some ways, this love is the deepest I have felt for a person, but it also doesn't satisfy my craving for romance and intimacy.

A little background: we started as friends before we were a couple. He really wanted to be with me, and I made it very clear that I didn't want a relationship since I had just gotten out of a toxic two-year romance. I also did not feel physically attracted to him. He's a good-looking guy, but definitely doesn't embody any of the physical characteristics of my type, so to speak.

After a while of us being friends, I realized what a uniquely caring person he is and gave in to my growing feelings. We began dating, but I was up front initially about the fact that I did not want exclusivity and wanted to try an open relationship format, something I'd always been curious about. He shot the idea down and I went along with it, succumbing to monogamy and putting my wants on the back-burner. This past year, I brought up the idea again and it was shot down immediately. In my mind, I see monogamy and marriage as these strange social expectations placed upon the fluid and ever-changing human experience of love and sex, and I have a hard time conforming to them. Our situation is a perfect example of the problems this can cause. Two people who have an amazing connection and love each other so much are expected to give up everything good they share because one facet of their relationship isn’t working.

I feel as if we've been told that one person must wear all of these hats (lover, friend, partner, rock) under the guise of monogamy, and if one of these pillars inevitably crumbles under the weight of this tremendous pressure, then all else must fall along with it. This doesn't work for me. On top of all this, we recently moved across the country together for the second time and are staying with his family until we move into our new place together next month. This is a big period of change for both of us and maybe that's why this is all coming to the surface now, but I am beginning to feel like something needs to change, and I must be the catalyst. The issues not only lie in the prospect of losing my favorite person in the world because one facet of our partnership isn’t working, but also in the fact that ending things romantically may lead to a very stressful financial situation for both of us. The prospect of suddenly being alone in a place where I don't know anybody and don't have a place to live sounds terrible, and I don't know why I would do that to myself. The idea of staying put also sounds suffocating. This is all a lot and I suppose I am just asking for some guidance here.

Should I stick with my current guy – the considerate, caring, stable, dependable one? Should I break up with him knowing that I will be creating a very difficult situation for myself, not only emotionally but financially? And all for what?

– Conforming nonconformist

It sounds like you're going to break up. The question is when.

You want different things. His boundaries don't mesh with yours, and you know everything will eventually "crumble," as you put it, because you desire a different kind of relationship.

You could choose to tell him this, and then make/change plans accordingly. Perhaps the two of you can avoid moving into this new place. Maybe you can break that lease and continue staying with his parents for a bit. Or maybe you can take the new place with a roommate. It's also possible that you both can move in and deal with discomfort for a bit until one person figures out a better situation.

Of course, you could move in there with a smile on your face and wait to talk about this until you've found other housing and know you have a place to go. You'd do a better job guessing how he'd like to be told what's on your mind, and how much he'd want to be in on planning this very difficult separation.

I know this is so much easier said than done, and I understand that there's a lot to lose, but this isn't just about your issues with monogamy. That's a big part of it, but it also sounds like this wonderful man – whom you love so dearly – was never what you wanted for a primary partner.

I don't know what experiences will be waiting for you on the other side of a breakup, but they're probably the kind you want to explore. If logistics weren't an issue right now, I think you'd already be exploring them.

Based on your letter, the only decisions left are about timing and how much to include him in figuring out next steps.

– Meredith

Readers? Any other choice than a breakup here? What about timing? What would you do?