Look, I like being in a relationship, I really do. I especially love being in a live-in relationship. I like that my boyfriend and I cook dinner together, how Sunday mornings are never lonely, and I’ve always got a travel partner and someone to see movies with. More than just being in a relationship, I love the person I’m in a relationship with. My boyfriend’s one of the kindest, funniest, most generous people I know, and I have more fun with him than anyone else. Yet, I can’t stop fantasizing about other men. There’s no specific man I’m fantasizing about. There’s not some guy I see on the train, at the local coffee shop, or in passing on the street who occupies my thoughts. There’s not even a celebrity I’m currently crushing on, or an ex I can’t stop thinking about. It’s the idea of a different guy I can’t seem to shake — the idea of someone new, someone with whom I could experience that initial rush of attraction and intrigue.
My imaginary guy is smart and attractive and sexy. Maybe I meet him at a party, and from across the room, our eyes meet and there’s a connection — it’s palpable. In my imagination, a number of different scenarios play out from there. Sometimes we turn our separate ways and never speak to each other; sometimes we make-out on a balcony and exchange numbers before parting; and other times we end up dating, meeting in dark jazz clubs on weekend nights and sharing cabs home to his place or mine.
I feel a little guilty admitting this, like I’m betraying my boyfriend somehow, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. It’s not that I’m tired of being in my relationship; ours in the happiest, healthiest one I’ve ever experienced. But after nearly three years with the same person, sometimes I yearn for the thrill of a first date, the excitement of meeting someone new, feeling sparks and heat, imagining all sorts of future scenarios.
Of course, I imagine future scenarios with my boyfriend, too. I think about future trips together, getting married, having babies, growing old together … and maybe that’s the problem. Those images don’t belong to me and only me; we share them, we talk about them together, we have a collaborative idea of how those scenarios will play out. It’s different when you’ve just met someone, and everything about the other person is still a mystery, every new thing you learn is cataloged in a file that helps you figure out whether he’s right for you, whether you’d ever want to have shared ideas of your future together one day. In the beginning, everything belongs to you.
Maybe it’s not a new, different guy I fantasize about, after all. Perhaps what I’m yearning for is to have no idea how my life might turn out. Maybe what I miss is the possibility that around the next corner lurks my future husband and an entire life I haven’t even begun to plan out. I know it’s silly to think life can’t be full of surprises after one settles down with one person, but when you start planning things like marriage, kids, and where you want to raise your family, the idea that your life could make a complete, unplanned 180 degree turn at any moment does seem less plausible. Possible, sure, but short of a windfall of cash, death, or some other circumstance, not entirely likely.
I’m not sure how to reconcile these feelings. Maybe there isn’t a way, really. When I was single, all I thought about was having the kind of relationship I’ve got now, so maybe the answer is accepting that there’s always going to be a patch or two on the other side of the grass that seems greener. Besides, what’s the harm in fantasizing about a few imaginary men?