It's A Pleasure

I Can't Stop Thinking About Breaking Up With My Boyfriend

I want to experience what it's like to have sex with at least one other guy.

Is it normal to constantly think about breaking up with my boyfriend?
Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; BONNINSTUDIO/Stocksy

Q: I grew up very Catholic, and because of that and "hyper-responsible oldest child" syndrome, I never allowed myself to do anything that was less than perfect. I even convinced myself I was a lesbian so that I wouldn't act on my real desire to have sex with men, which I saw as very shameful.

Flash-forward to the last year of college, when I met the perfect guy (I was 21, he was 25). He's hot, thoughtful, and takes such good care of me. In every way, he's the right choice, so I finally let myself have sex that I really enjoyed with him, and now we've been dating for a little bit more than a year and a half. For the first year of our relationship, we were basically long-distance, but I was convinced we were going to get married someday, so we jumped directly from that to moving in together right after I graduated.

The problem is that since we moved in together seven months ago, I have not been able to stop thinking about breaking up with him. This is my first relationship, and so I don't know if this is a normal period of adjustment to moving in with someone or what, but it's been causing me very intense pain. There's a huge part of me that wants to experience what it's like to have sex with at least one other guy, and figure out who I am as an independent adult, and is intensely jealous that my boyfriend got to have other relationships and sexual experiences before "settling down" with me. But then there's another huge part of me that loves him intensely, is terrified of hurting him, and haunted by the thought that I will never find anything as good as this.

Whenever we're together, it's perfect, but the second he leaves, all the anxious thoughts about wanting to break up with him come roaring back. I've done everything to try to fix this — started a job I really love to give myself a life outside him, gone to therapy, openly communicated to him where my head is at — but it still hasn't made these thoughts go away. I'm so scared of making the wrong choice, but breaking up with him and staying with him both feel incredibly wrong to me. I was so happy in our relationship before we moved in together, so do I need to keep sticking it out? Will this get better with time?

The idea that life experience comes from having multiple partners is very false. Or at least… flimsy.

A: There are at least 10,000 things I want to address here, spirals within spirals of answers and thoughts and theories. But before I get to anything more concrete, I want to remind you, as I try to remind most people, that there is not a right answer here. Your upbringing — and the world at large — has inculcated you with the idea that there are right choices and wrong choices, and that the hard part of life will be doing the right thing in the face of a tempting evil. That so rarely resembles anything life throws at us. My mom taught me once when I was younger that most of adulthood is making the choice between two good options or two bad ones. This has stuck with me a lot. If there were an easy, obvious, morally correct choice guaranteed to bring you the most future happiness, you would have made it already. Please trust yourself enough to know that.

Future happiness, like weather patterns and tantrum triggers of a toddler, is very hard to predict. We’re not even that good at figuring out and then doing what makes us happy now, so why would we be good at foreseeing the future? (Seriously, there’s an entire book about how bad we are at this called Stumbling on Happiness.) Please know that no matter what you do, you will be happy in the future. At some point, you’ll also be crying on the cold, hard ground. No matter what choices you make, you will experience joy and pain and rooftop parties and itchy sweaters. That is all coming for you.

The idea that life experience comes from having multiple partners is very false. Or at least… flimsy. Often, it feels like having a variety of romantic encounters is key to having a full, well-rounded life. And I guess on some level, yeah! Sure! But seeing a new penis is not going to make you wiser. Well, perhaps the situation will teach you something, but the moment itself is not going to be More Life than any other moment.

Your youth doesn’t have to be dedicated to chasing wild flings and new relationships. Almost every single person I know who grew up quickly or who “did the right thing all the time” as a kid is now obsessed with getting to relive and re-create their youth. They want to get the chance to be reckless, to go wild, to make bad choices. There is something acutely painful about feeling like everyone else got to mess up and you didn’t and now you’re on track to… keep doing the right thing…?

I deeply suspect that if you leave your current partner, whatever future romantic experiences you have will be either very bland, wildly disappointing (which can be fun in their own way!), or if they’re really, really, really good, the same thing as what you’re experiencing now. The problem with simply wanting “more” is that there’s never a way to fulfill your desire. (Don’t even get me started on the hedonic treadmill — the idea that basically no matter what happens, good or bad, people usually return swiftly to the same level of happiness they were at before.)

The bewildering truth of life is that, wherever you go, there you are. Most long-term relationships are not going to feel thrilling and new and sexy every day. They are going to feel warm and lovely and comfortable.

I think there’s a very good chance the problem lies more with your grief for your past and less with your desire for the future. It’s sad and hard to confront the idea that perhaps life is just… this, forever. But I want to remind you that life will change and be hard and fantastic in ways you cannot even fathom yet. Your relationship is not always going to look like this. You are not One Set Person and neither is your boyfriend. What else could you do with your life that would bring excitement that isn’t romantic or sexual? How can you validate wanting more adult experiences without leaving him? What is the fear of staying?

I think the likelihood is that you find love again — not necessarily in a better or worse relationship, just a different one.

All of that said, I also know yearning like you wouldn’t believe. At least 82% of my time is spent longing to live my life again, and differently. When people are like, “You couldn’t pay me to go back to middle school!” I’m like “I would pay you!!!” I hated middle school in a lot of ways, but the chance to get to do life again, to experience more… it’s beyond enchanting. I want to do youth again and last Tuesday again. I want to do it all. This makes for a whole lot of dissatisfaction if I don’t actively chase that feeling away with a broom (or go to Italy to work on an olive farm for a few weeks, which I really have done —and which was marvelous, but you can’t uproot your life for a month every single time you feel minorly restless).

But maybe this isn’t about craving a do-over. Maybe the timing of your relationship simply isn’t right, even if the person is good. You don’t need to wait around, gathering up proof that you’re unhappy enough to leave. You don’t need to present a PowerPoint begging to be released from an imaginary contract. You get to leave because something isn’t working for you right now. Even if — even if! Listen to me closely! Even if it might be hypothetically right to be together in the future.

You might be thinking, But, Sophia! What if I never find love again? OK, first of all, that’s not going to happen. I mean, what if you get sucked into a jet engine one day? You will love and be loved again. (You will probably not get sucked into a jet engine.) I do not know what that next love will look like, and you very well may regret leaving. You might also regret staying. I think the likelihood is that you find love again — not necessarily in a better or worse relationship, just a different one. And that will probably be sad on occasion. It doesn’t make it wrong. Life is not about setting yourself up for a good future — despite what every adult made it seem like for the first 18 years of your life. The present is your life, too. You are allowed to make choices for yourself in the present because they work for you now.

I know I’ve weighed in on both sides. Not very helpful! But perhaps something I said made a small fist inside your heart unclench a little. Try not to make this decision out of fear. Try to make peace with the fear you have (about the future, about yourself) and act anyway. If all else fails, toss a coin in the air and listen really hard to which side your gut wishes for it to land on. And then be brave and go after that.

It’s A Pleasure appears here every other Thursday. If you have a sex, dating, or relationship question, email Sophia at or fill out this form.