Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why Hasn't He Said I Love You?

Dear Jocelyn,
When is it "time" to say "I love you"? I have been in a relationship for over nine months. He's a wonderful man—an engineer, and a very, very pragmatic individual who has a difficult time acknowledging his emotions. I love him truly, but I know I cannot wait forever for him to figure it out. He easily shies away from discussing anything emotional and when we have talks, it's mostly me talking. He's 26
I am told this is young for guys. I also have not met his family yet. They are out of the country and I will be meeting them next month. He has made comments about his roommate's parents meeting her significant other and how big it was for the family to meet him, so I am guessing it's cultural and that he's waiting until his family gives the seal of approval to really make a verbal commitment with me.

It's actually what I am desperately hanging onto as far as an explanation as to why I feel so unsure about where he is. It's all so cryptic, like I am having to read into everything he does in order to find out what I need to know. He's not much of a "sweet gestures" kind of guy
 flowers, cards, and so forth are not quite his speed, although he knows I love that stuff. It's something I have accepted, and gladly so. He has a heart of gold, he's a Christian, close to his family, and a very reasonable man. I trust him. He is loyal as anything, but just emotionally stunted.

I'm willing to wait. I'm definitely excited to meet his family and see what he's like in his home, but what if he never says "the L word"? Do I say it? If he doesn't say it back, is that a deal breaker?

I want to spend my life with him. I want to travel with him, have a family one day with him, and all those things. He's a great companion. But I'm getting antsy for some sign of commitment and I feel as though I am becoming one of those girls who tries to force it out of him, which will then make it all null and void. It needs to happen organically, and I know that when (if ever) he does say "I love you," it will be exceedingly meaningful. I guess my question is this: Is it ever too late? Is it abnormal to wait this long?

Dear Unsure,
Oh, this is one of the reasons I am happy to not be dating anymore. I say this in all sincerity and with full sympathy. The timing of saying "I love you" is a very individual thing—one person might be ready after the second date, while another person might not be ready until a year later. This is not because the first person has stronger feelings, but because of what they believe love is. It also has to do with personality; someone who is more outgoing and effusive is more likely to say it than someone who is reserved.

It can also be influenced by personal beliefs. The first time my husband said, "I love you" was during his proposal—he didn't believe it was right to tell a girl he loved her without making a promise of marriage. At that point we were both fairly bursting with the desire to say it to each other.

All of this is to say that there are many possible explanations for why your boyfriend has not yet said that he loves you. It is likely that he is waiting until after you have met his family, although that is impossible to say for sure.

It seems like the real issue is that you are unsure of how he feels about you and where your relationship is heading. This is something that can only be solved by talking to him. It is not too forward to sit your boyfriend down and ask him where he sees this relationship going. Doing this well depends on your tone and how you pose the questions; ask him out of curiosity, not to pressure him into one answer or another. Once he tells you what his intentions are, it is up to you to decide what you want to do. If you want to marry him, and he says that he is happy with perpetually dating, that would be cause for concern (and might be a sign for you to end the relationship).

You said in your letter that you want a "verbal commitment"; however, that is not what "I love you" is. Two 14-year-old children can say that to each other
that doesn't mean they have made a commitment. Those words are certainly very nice to hear, but a real sign of commitment is an engagement ring.

If you do become engaged, I would recommend premarital counseling to help you communicate with each other. If he has trouble expressing his feelings while you are dating, that will cause problems in marriage. It is certainly not an insurmountable issue, but it is something you should address before getting married. You also might want to read the book The 5 Love Languagestogether to learn how to express affection in ways each other can appreciate.

I know this feels like a big struggle right now, but try to think long term for your relationship. Keeping the future in mind helps bring things into perspective.  Waiting a bit longer to say "I love you" will not harm your relationship, but forcing it too early might.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Live Person

Dear Readers,

I wanted to share a new website that I am a member of: Live Person.  It is an online counseling site, where you can reach hundreds of therapists (or other experts) and talk to one immediately  There are options to talk over the phone, via instant messaging, or email. It is an excellent way to do short-term therapy in situations where one might not want (or be able) to talk to someone in person.

If you would like to receive actual counseling from me, and not just advice, please visit my profile.  If you have any questions about this site, please feel free to ask in the comments section.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Should My Boyfriend Be Invited?

Dear Jocelyn,
I have been dating my boyfriend for 5 years. We are high school sweet hearts (I am 20 years old). I am also the youngest cousin in my family, and my family has always thought of me as the baby. I am in college, but I still live with my parents. We recently just got invited to my cousins wedding. She just turned 40 and I am so glad that she has found the one! Our invitation was addressed to 'The [Family Name]' and on the inside of the invitation is says to write down 'how many guests are attending'.

If I have 3 people in my household, do I write down 4?

Should I ask if I am allowed to bring my boyfriend? Who do I ask? The bride? The bride's parents? I know weddings are expensive, but my boyfriend has become a part of my family as well. I don't want to be rude at all! I also will not be mad if she says no. I just don't want the bride to feel like she has been pushed into something.
-Trying Not To Be Pushy

Dear Trying,
Wedding invitations should be addressed to each individuals by name (including children and dates) to avoid this kind of confusion. Since they left it open ended, you are perfectly within your rights to email or call the bride and ask if your boyfriend may attend. You have the exact right attitude about it - you can be hopeful that she says yes, but not bitter if she says no. It is kind of you to understand the pressures and expenses of modern weddings, and it might help for you to say that during your request.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Husband Renting Rooms to Women?

Dear Jocelyn,
What can I tell my husband who thinks it's okay to rent to all female foreign exchange students and live there with them, without me? There are 8 of them right now (in the two rooms upstairs, he is downstairs). While I trust him to remain pure, there are concerns, including his Christian witness. He and I are reconciling our marriage (after only one year) and he has work that needs to be done, and rent to collect, but I know God can provide a way for others to help with this.

I trust him, but I'm not okay with the mingling at times like in the kitchen, etc., especially how some of them dress, or should I say don't dress. He says it means nothing to him, but it isn't right. (Plus he is very friendly and outgoing - he can't help himself sometimes...) I've mentioned what the Bible says about avoiding the appearance of evil, even his pastor said "Others don't know what goes on behind closed doors," which is the exact thing I said. It breaks my heart to think of him talking, laughing, sharing with them when he should be with me talking, laughing, sharing, etc. I feel like my feelings don't matter. I'm trying not to say too much anymore, since I've already told my husband how it hurts me and why.

-Worried About Him

Dear Worried,
I'm so sorry to hear about your marriage troubles.  This is a tough situation to comment on, since I don't know your husband's heart, and his side of everything.  The first part of my advice is going to largely give him the benefit of the doubt, and then I'll share what I think he is doing wrong.

I wrote a while back on co-ed roommates; I agree with you that it is not a good idea.  However, there are some differences between having a roommate and what your husband is doing.  For one, these women are students (and I am assuming he is not).  This, of course, does not mean that they are any less attractive, but it does mean that they are probably not viewing each other as peers and potential romantic partners.  In addition, he is renting to eight students (how big are these rooms??), which means that there is not the same one-on-one intimacy that a roommate has.  There is a good chance that these students mostly keep to themselves and to each other, and don't talk more than just in passing with your husband.  Of course, I am not there, and cannot guarantee anything. It is possible that there is something inappropriate going on, and that your husband has bad motives for renting to females—but it is also possible that the situation is completely innocent.

It sounds like jealousy might be clouding your view of the situation.  Jealousy is not necessarily badhaving a certain level of possessiveness towards one's spouse is normal and natural.  However, jealousy usually becomes more pronounced when we are feeling insecure and uncertain about the partner.  You are going through an extremely difficult period of time right now, which is contributing to these feelings.  After a year of being separated, you clearly still love him and want to reconcile.  But knowing he has eight women staying in his home is probably stirring up old arguments and feelings that had been laying dormant for a while.  It is easy to ruminate and picture him talking and flirting with scantily-clad students over breakfast.

My recommendation is to first realize that this might not be the case.  Examine what you know about your husband and these women, and what you have seen of them.  Do you see evidence of them being overly friendly with each other?  If not, consider that your heart might be hurting more than it needs to over this situation.

Secondly, if you are not already doing so, please get marriage counseling.  This is not optional for you and your husband—it is a must.  If he won't go with you, you need to go alone.  

Now, a word about his actions: I do not think that what he is doing is wise.  What I wrote above is to help you realize that you might have a much different mental image than what is really going on.  I also think that if he truly wants to reconcile with you, he needs to make some sacrifices, including giving up renting out these rooms to women if it continues to make you very uncomfortable.  While the main issue that you need to work on is jealousy, the main issue he needs to work on is respecting your feelings. You say that it seems like your emotions don't matter, and that you've already told him that it hurts you.  This is exactly why a therapist is neededif he does not respond to you being hurt and take your feelings into account with his decision-making, then reconciliation is going to be much more difficult.

I hope you and your husband reach a compromise on this issue and are able to mend the rift between you two. The best thing you can do right now is pray and seek counseling.