Should I stay or should I go?

Dear Alice,

I have been going out with a wonderful girl for over a year now. She is smart, caring, and pleasant. But, someone else has come into the picture. She is also wonderful, smart, and pleasant, and I can't stop thinking about her. My girlfriend doesn't know this, but it's changing me on the inside... I have this terrible feeling it's only a matter of time before something big happens. I am at total war on the inside, sometimes my heart says "stay" while my mind says "leave." Other times, my mind says "stay" while my heart says "leave." I am so confused. Please help.

Torn Between

Dear Torn Between,

It sounds like you have a tough decision in front of you. It’s great that you’re thinking about the impacts of your decision — ultimately only you can determine what’s best for you, both now and for the future. Could it be you're feeling this way because things aren’t going well in your current relationship? Or, maybe you’re only physically attracted to this new girl? You may think about what you would lose and what you would gain by "leaving" and by "staying." Your answers to these questions may help you understand what you're feeling in this moment.

It could be helpful to start by looking at your current relationship. Have you considered whether this new person is a ticket out of a relationship you no longer want to be in? Or, rather, would you want your current relationship to become more open to the idea of seeing other people (if your girlfriend also welcomes this opportunity)? It’s also worth considering that maybe you need some "alone time" — not to be with either person so that you can decide what's best for you at this time.

Then again, there's the possibility that you're attracted to this other girl and it has nothing to do with your girlfriend. If you act on this attraction, something will happen. But, a few weeks or months down the road, you might realize that what happened as a result (say, a breakup with your current girlfriend) wasn’t what you really wanted. Instead, you may take some time to further reflect on your feelings for the new girl and for your girlfriend respectively. What might potentially result from either staying in or leaving your current relationship, and what you want and need in a partner before making a decision?

One last thought... it’s worth mentioning that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. The grass is usually greenest where we water it. So, taking some more time to sort through your feelings, attractions, and goals for the future will likely help you come to the decision that’s best for you.

Last updated Nov 18, 2016
Originally published Feb 13, 1998

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