Ed and I started dating in May of 2007, and last November (2010), he broke up with me. Things hadn't been working well since around the beginning of the semester, when all of my attention went to school and I had no energy for relationship maintenance, and also, I think, some longstanding patterns between us weren't working well for me anyway. I had a distinct and increasing lack of interest in making things work. Sometimes I felt on the verge of breaking up with him, but doing so also felt unthinkable.
Since then, in many ways, things have only improved between us. We are still living together (not planning to change that anytime soon), sleeping in the same bed (which could change), getting along well (better than before, I'd say), and doing all of the things that boyfriends and girlfriends do. There are a lot of "I love you"s and other romantic things. We're experimenting with ways to be in a relationship with each other.
I often call him my "semi-ex-boyfriend." (I guess if this ends, I can start calling him my "ex-semi-boyfriend.")
It occurred to me the other night that he's sort of my partner but not my boyfriend. But given that our relationship is indistinguishable from a regular boyfriend-girlfriend one, what makes him not my boyfriend? Is it just that we're not using those words? Is it purely a technicality?
I don't think so, necessarily. For one thing, our relationship isn't exclusive at all. It has always had a degree of openness to it, but it's more blatantly non-exclusive now than in the past. And for another thing, we lack a certain sense between us that we are staying together. In general, the assumption with a boyfriend is that if nothing goes wrong, you're going to stay together, possibly forever, maybe leading to marriage if you are the marrying type. Our relationship lacks that sense right now, because it clearly doesn't meet the conditions for us to be happy together long-term, at least as each other's primary partners. This just isn't where I'm laying my bets for the future.
So for now I am just living with, hanging out with, and loving one of my closest friends. I'm sure it's confusing for other people, but it seems to be working for us pretty well right now.